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Charities are key to get public to act on climate crisis

A survey commissioned by People’s Postcode Lottery has found environmental charities and organisations hold the power to motivate people to act and change their ways when it comes to their own impact on the environment.

While respondents ranked governments as having top responsibility for tackling climate change, the poll found information from environmental charities to be the key driving force in encouraging people to adopt low carbon lifestyles.

Charities came out on top with respondents across Britain as a trusted information source and the leading motivator in encouraging climate-friendly behaviour with respondents across Britain, scoring more highly than anything they see in the news.

According to the survey, what politicians say is the least motivating factor in encouraging the British public to reduce their environmental impact, scoring joint last alongside what they see on social media.*

As a reliable source of motivation and information, the research highlights the third sector has a vital role to play in communicating to the public the importance of reducing their environmental impact, and how they can do that.

72% of those who answered expressed an interest in learning more about what they can do to reduce their environmental impact and over half, 57%, recognise that they are not currently doing enough.

Published ahead of the COP26 climate summit, the survey is part of a report called From Attitude to Action: Environmental concerns and behaviours in Britain.

4,227 adults spanning all generations were polled across England, Scotland and Wales, measuring their understanding of the climate and nature emergencies, and the barriers they face in adopting more climate-friendly behaviour.

The study also found 91% of Britain’s grans and grandads are fearful of the ways climate change will impact future generations and share the same worries as their younger Generation Z and Millennial counterparts.

80% of grandparents polled feel the climate emergency should be treated as an urgent problem to resolve as do 80% of 16 to 34-year-olds. The findings defy the notion that worries over the issue are limited to 18-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s generation.

Clara Govier, managing director of People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“Our players are one of Britain’s biggest fundraisers for environmental charities. These organisations and the third sector already play an important and active role in delivering global climate change programmes and now, these findings show they are an even greater force for good.

“As highly trusted sources of information, it’s clear that environmental good causes are a key piece of the tackling the climate crisis puzzle. The research points to further opportunities, and a need, for the sector and its role in increasing a pro-environmental behaviour change in the public by communicating the ways in which people can make a difference.

“It’s heartening to learn there is such strong, cross-generational support for climate action and to see the crucial role played by environmental charities being recognised by the British public in this way.”

Over £148 million has been raised by People’s Postcode Lottery players in the past five years for 2,500 good causes working for climate action. Including £28.2 million worth of funding for Friends of the Earth and The Wildlife Trusts, which worked in partnership on the survey.

Newcastle grandparent and 66-year-old climate activist Jacky Doran said:

“Becoming a grandparent shouldn’t mean fearing for the future of your grandchildren, but I do. I worry they’ll be the first of many generations forced to adapt to a broken and hostile world.

“It’s the main reason I joined others where I live to prevent total climate breakdown. When speaking to our community, it’s heartening that so many understand the dangers facing our planet.

“Limiting the full force of climate change is still within grasp, but the window of opportunity is drawing in. Next month’s international climate talks will be the litmus test on whether we really can secure the safe and flourishing future our grandchildren deserve.”

The research also found that people look to charities for encouragement in adopting climate-friendly behaviour and reducing their environmental impact.

Information from environmental charities was shown to be the single most important factor in motivating the public to adopt low carbon lifestyles, ahead of anything politicians say or what they see in the news.

Over £148 million in funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery has supported 2,500 charities focused on environmental and climate-related issues over the last five years alone.

Jamie Peters, director of campaigning impact at Friends of the Earth said:

“These findings dispel all predisposed ideas about what the typical environmentalist looks like. Clearly, care for our climate is something that transcends every level of society, and that includes age and class.

“From climate-conscious school strikers to grandparents seeking assurances their loved ones will inherit a safe and secure planet, people everywhere are taking action in their own communities and want to be better enabled to make climate-friendly choices.

“Knowing that charities and campaigning organisations like Friends of the Earth are regarded highly by the public as a trusted source on the climate emergency only makes protecting our planet’s future even more compelling.”

The findings also show that 9 in 10 (88%) are concerned about the harm rising global temperatures is causing to wildlife and animals.

Kathryn Brown, director of climate action at The Wildlife Trusts said:

“People are deeply concerned about climate change and its effects on wildlife, but often they’re not sure of the best things they can do to help.

“Fortunately, there are easy steps that everyone can make to cut their emissions – as well as ways that people can help improve the resilience of nature.

“For example, everyone can help to protect rivers and the wildlife that lives in them – such as otters, kingfishers and water voles – by reducing the amount of water we use at home.

“Today’s survey shows that people are confused about the difference that different personal actions actually make. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts have put together clear and easy guidance about things you can do for the climate. We feel that absolutely everyone can play an important part in tackling climate change – at an individual, community and global level.”

Mark Diffley, director of Diffley Partnership which conducted the survey added:

“This exciting and timely new research offers invaluable insights that go beyond headline findings, and drills down into the detail of the public’s concerns, motivations and behaviours.

“The findings challenge established preconceptions and pervasive stereotypes around who is worried about climate change, and what people are willing to do or give up to tackle it.

“It also advances practical and actionable solutions to the obstacles that individuals face, and identifies effective ways to communicate, encourage and facilitate positive environmental behaviours through strong partnerships of governments, businesses, charities and individuals.”

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