Public 'bored of preaching by smug, self-righteous greens'

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MEMBERS of the public are bored with hearing about climate change and cynical about government motives for green initiatives, a report suggests.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warned that the findings of its report could threaten the UK's ability to meet emissions targets.

Scotland has among the toughest targets in the world, and must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels.

However Consumer Power: How the Public Thinks Lower-carbon Behaviour Could be Made Mainstream, to be published today, found that climate change-related communications, products and policies simply caused most people to switch off.

The research, based on workshops and interviews, suggested people were tired of and bored with hearing about climate change, despite being aware of its implications, and

were cynical about the government's motives in pushing for action.

They often viewed government action as a way to increase taxation, or were hypocritical in the light of decisions such as allowing airport expansions. And people were doubtful about how effective green behaviour would be when other countries were still heavily emitting.

They were also resentful about being made to feel guilty about their lifestyles, and dismissive of environmentalists as "smug" and "self-righteous". The people who took part were also regularly put off by the cost of choosing lower-carbon options.

The IPPR argues in the report that a new approach is needed. This should focus on the message that low-energy lifestyles can save money, instead of highlighting that they help prevent climate change, they say.

Simon Retallack, head of climate change at IPPR, said: "Success will lie in convincing consumers that in adopting lower-carbon lifestyles, they can save money and have control in a chaotic world, and they can do the right thing and look good without being an environmentalist.

"If we can achieve that, while putting the policies in place to ensure that lower-carbon options are affordable, attractive and visible, we will have gone a long way towards mobilising the power of consumers in the battle against climate change."

Lang Banks, head of communications at WWF Scotland, said he could sympathise with "much of what the report highlights" – especially "climate-destroying policies pursued by the very governments who also claim to be green".

But he added that he believed there was still public backing for green initiatives and highlighted that 20,000 people responded to a consultation on the Scottish Climate Change Bill.

"That massive public backing still exists is proven by the massive response the Scottish Government received to its public consultation on climate legislation and the world-leading legislation it led to – unanimously passed into law only two months ago," he said.

"It was the Scottish public who made that happen."

He said now was not the time to give up. "It is now more than ever that we need mass public-support calls for strong international action," he said.

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