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Nearly half UK residents plan to fly less as climate concern grows

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 15:52 GMT

Tail Fins of British Airways planes are seen parked at Heathrow airport as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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Changes in habits during lockdowns can be harnessed for a green recovery, say researchers

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Aug 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nearly 50% of British people plan to fly less even after the easing of coronavirus restrictions as concerns over climate change rise, according to survey data released on Wednesday.

Researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Manchester said they were surprised to concern over climate change continued to rise even at the height of the pandemic, when the survey was conducted.

"When there are other really big threats or big issues facing society, usually we see environmental concern take a bit of a dip," Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, who led the research, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It's linked to the something called the 'finite pool of worry' hypothesis - in other words, we've only got so much attention we can give to things, so much worry, so we tend to focus on whatever is most pressing.

"It does seem that maybe what we are seeing now is that public concern about climate change has become more entrenched."

Almost three quarters of respondents said tackling climate change required a "high" or "extremely high" level of urgency in a survey of about 1,500 people in May, up from 62% last August.

There was also a rise in support for climate change mitigation policies including measures to decrease meat consumption and flying, found the research by the UK Centre for Climate and Social Transformation (CAST).

Many reported they had made eco-friendly changes to their lifestyles under lockdown - from reducing food waste to cutting fashion purchases.

The majority of those surveyed said they wanted to keep doing at least one of the changes they had made during lockdown, with 47% saying the planned to fly less after lockdown and just 8% planning to increase flights.

Researchers called on policy makers to seize the "moment of change" in habits under COVID-19 to build an eco-friendly recovery and ensure that there was infrastructure to back up green intentions.

"The temptation will be, 'actually there are loads of cheap flights and so maybe I'll take my holiday abroad'," said Whitmarsh, the director of CAST.

"What we need is to have consistent policy measures that really encourage the sorts of low-carbon behaviours that people have started to take."

Related stories:

Lockdown 'flash crash' in emissions won't curb warming - but green recovery can

Economic meltdown threatens Europe's war on plastic

Ban short-haul flights for climate? In EU poll 62% say yes

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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