Conservative MPs “inspirational” school climate strikers

- New poll shows only 15% of public oppose strikes –

A survey released today shows that UK public support for the young people’s school strikes over climate change outweighs opposition by more than three to one. This Friday (15 March), strikes by young people are expected to take place globally in over 90 countries - including the UK.

The poll, carried out by Opinium for the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), shows that 53 percent of British adults support children taking time out of school to voice their concern about the impacts that climate change will have on their futures, with only 15 percent opposed to their actions. Young people are even more supportive with 60 percent of 18-34 year olds backing the strikers.

The polling also shows that 70 percent of the public believe it's important that the UK Government reduces greenhouse gas emissions to zero. The UK Government has committed to setting a net zero target; recently asking the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for their advice on how to reach net zero. The CCC will report back on May 2nd, and the UK is set to become the world's first major economy to commit in law to ending its contribution to climate change.

At 5pm this Thursday (14th March), a large group of Conservative MPs, including Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, and Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, alongside members of the Conservative Environment Network MP Caucus, will release a video praising the "inspirational" strikers, highlighting the UK's world-leading record on emissions reduction, and pledging to do more to tackle climate change. The video will be hosted on the CEN website.

Commenting on the findings, Rt Hon Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury said: “The extraordinary passion of the school strikers is inspirational. These are young people whose lives will be much more affected by climate change than the generations leaving them this legacy.

“It is a threat like no other; indeed, security planners at the Pentagon describe climate change as a risk escalator, that increases pressures on migration and instability in vulnerable states. Of course young people don’t want to inherit a more unstable, environmentally degraded world.

“But the strikes also highlight the need for us to better inform people about what action has been and is being taken. In Britain we have a good record but there remains more to do if we want to retain our position as a world leader.”

Since 1990, the UK has cut its emissions by 42 per cent, while its economy has grown by two thirds - meaning faster emissions reduction and better economic growth than any other G7 nation. The Paris Agreement requires nations to set stronger emissions reduction targets, and reach net zero.

Vicky Ford, MP for Chelmsford said: “We have to commit to a net zero emissions target if we are to stop climate change for the sake of ours and younger generations, and to achieve this we need to harness the powers of science and technology and unlock the opportunities from new clean technologies for our country.

“We lead the world in sectors like renewable energy, which now supplies about a third of our electricity supply, but we must continue to support this sector. That includes opening a pathway to market for onshore wind again, developing nascent technologies such as batteries and smart grids, and boosting the energy efficiency of homes.

“The recently published offshore wind sector deal shows the ambition of what we can do, but to achieve a net zero emissions target by 2050, or earlier if possible, we must do more to harness new technology.”

A recent joint letter, from Simon Clarke, together with 182 MPs, asked the Prime Minister to back a UK net zero emissions target ahead of 2050.

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said: “I've led the charge in Parliament for the UK to go net zero emissions on climate change before 2050 and am immensely proud that 182 of my colleagues from across the House have joined me in backing a step that will fundamentally improve the lives of young people in the future.

“This polling shows that a net zero target is not just necessary but hugely popular, and not just within Parliament - over 70% of British people support us in our argument that the UK should aim to cut its carbon emissions to zero in the next few decades.

“We have also seen support from key sectors like farming, with the National Farmers Union pledging to reach net zero emissions. Setting this goal in law will set us on the path to delivering a cleaner, greener country, putting us at the forefront of the race to develop clean technologies and jobs around the UK.”

A report by the IPCC last October highlighted the necessity of reaching net zero emissions - and the difference in risks between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming.

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park said: “Globally, the signs showing the extent and frequency of the impacts of climate change on the natural world are alarming. Heat records are being made, ecosystems are undergoing extraordinarily rapid changes, lands are becoming harder to farm, and the spectre of a global refugee crisis is looming.

“Last year’s IPCC report also tells us that the difference between limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C is dramatic, with lower numbers of people exposed to water stress, fewer at risk of climate-related destitution, and at least some of our coral reefs preserved.

“In this light, it seems absurd and mean-minded to admonish children for missing school to ring the alarm bells. This challenge is gigantic and, despite the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go.”

Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane said: “Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, but some groups more than others. Women, young people and the poorest people in societies globally are the most vulnerable to climate risks, so it’s understandable young women in particular care about this.

“A stable environment is also fundamental for wider social equality. Well-designed homes can reduce emissions along with people’s bills, and create a healthy environment to live in. Restoring natural habitats is good for the climate and can help to improve people’s wellbeing.

“As Conservatives, caring about passing on a better world for future generations is fundamental to our beliefs, and tackling climate change is an essential part of that.”

Polling has previously demonstrated that the number one issue younger voters wanted politicians to discuss more was climate change - and the Conservatives have made tackling climate change a key plank of their offer to younger voters.

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Conservative Vice-Chairman for Youth said: "The school strikes show how much young people care about the environment and challenges like climate change.  They care about the future of the planet. And so do we.

“Conservatives have a proven track record in tackling climate change and expanding renewable energy.  We must be clear about what actions we have already taken, but also listen to the concerns and views of young people about what more we can do.

“Students should not be reluctant to contact their MPs and let their views be known - and the government has also launched projects alongside the British Youth Council to give young people a greater voice in the development of national policy and I hope climate change will form a major part of that."

Notes to editors:

Cross-party MP joint letter on setting a net zero emissions target: https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/joint-letter

Friday’s for Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/events/list