Almost 9 in 10 Londoners worry about climate change – but to a varying degree…
90 per cent of Londoners worried at least occasionally about the impact of climate change on London – and a similar proportion about the impact on their local area. Londoners were about as worried about the impact of climate change as they have been in the last year.
Younger age groups were more likely than older groups to worry regularly about the impact of climate change on London, and on their local area: worry was 10 percentage points higher for 16-34 year olds than for 35-54 year olds, and 20 percentage points higher for 55+ year olds. Of course we know that awareness of the climate emergency is greater among young people, in no small part due to the fact that climate change is likely to have a bigger impact on their lives into the future than is true for older generations.
… and worry about air quality is at a similar level
89 per cent of Londoners said they worry about air quality in their local area at least occasionally, and 43 per cent said they worried about it regularly, down from 47 per cent in January 2021. It’s hard to know why worry about air quality has decreased overall (it has for most groups except for Green Party voters), despite London experiencing some of its worst air pollution in January 2022. It may be that health-related concerns were heightened during the pandemic and have since eased a little, or that the war in Ukraine has been pushing other worries out of the headlines.
Overall, Londoners were slightly more likely to worry about air quality ‘in London’ than in their local area specifically (47 per cent worried regularly about air quality in London, compared to 43 per cent about air quality in their local area).
Inner London residents were more likely to worry about air quality than those in outer boroughs, probably reflecting to some extent their level of exposure to emissions. Young people worried more regularly about air quality in London than older age groups – this may be because they have greater awareness of environmental issues or because older Londoners are more likely to have higher incomes and live in areas with better air quality.
Londoners from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds are more likely to live in areas with bad air quality, and the data showed that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Londoners worried more regularly about it than White respondents. People living with a disability were more likely to worry, and this may be because air quality can have worse impacts for those with a pre-existing health condition or disability. Londoners with children under 18 worried also more regularly than those without children.
… but support for measures to tackle air pollution is lower
While most Londoners worried about the city’s air quality at least on occasion, support for measures to tackle the issue was lower.
The measure that gathered most support was introducing tougher rules on industry. Though industrial production, particularly requiring power generation from fossil fuels, can be highly polluting, it is relatively small part of London’s air pollution problem. Indeed, industrial production represents 7 per cent of London’s nitrogen oxide emissions and 1 per cent of central London’s particulate matter (PM10), while road transport is responsible for 50% and 53% of these pollutants respectively.9 But the fact that industrial emission standards are remote to people’s daily lives will explain its relative popularity.
Of the solutions suggested that require significant behavioural changes from Londoners, reducing through-traffic on residential streets polled highest. Other measures that received higher levels of support were: reducing the number of planes flying over the city, banning woodburning stoves, and extending the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to the whole of London, which the Mayor has announced plans to implement.
Despite controversy surrounding the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), they are the second most popular solution to air pollution among Londoners. It is significantly more popular among Black Londoners than any other ethnicity, while White Londoners are least likely to support it of any ethnicity, perhaps reflecting the disproportionate impact of air pollution on lower income Black Londoners.
Londoners need better home insulation
Households living in well insulated homes require less heating, meaning that they will be less affected by the current soaring energy prices. 44 per cent of Londoners find it hard to heat their homes due to poor insulation, and only 30 per cent declare having no problems with their insulation.
The situation of people with disabilities and families with children is particularly worrisome, as more than half report struggling with poor insulation. These groups are already highly vulnerable to changes in prices, as they have less room to adapt by increasing their income or reducing their consumption,. Tenants also report issues with home insulation (49 per cent) significantly more often than homeowners (42 per cent), but even then, the fact that this number is still high for homeowners shows that there is a clear issue of home insulation cutting across demographic lines in London.
There is strong interest in home improvements to increase insulation, with 17 per cent planning to make improvements to their windows, 14 per cent to their walls insulation, and 20 per cent to their roof insulation. However, these are questions about intention and the number who actually go ahead with these changes will necessarily be lower, especially so in the context of the cost of living crisis.
The main reason for not intending to make improvements to home insulation was affordability: between 27 per cent to 30 per cent of respondents were unable to afford them. Access to information was also an issue, though less so for double glazing. Many were not intending on doing improvements – many of them will be tenants and therefore reliant on their landlord to make these changes. This suggests that more needs to be done to facilitate access to home improvements, particularly through improving affordability, as that is an important barrier to Londoners.