This research project examines how UK Members of Parliament engage with climate change as a social and political issue. It updates similar research we carried out in 2018. The project is funded by the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST).
We conducted interviews with 15 MPs and convened a focus group with civil society representatives. Our findings reflect not only the perspectives of these MPs, but also how they think their parliamentary colleagues engage with climate change. We find that climate change is now mainstream for MPs, in contrast to 2018. They understand the scientific consensus, support the Climate Change Act and say they have a stronger mandate from their constituents. They also see the co-benefits of climate action, such as better air quality and cheaper electricity from renewables.
Yet this support is accompanied by specific concerns. MPs told us they have questions about how to manage the social, practical and political challenges of the net zero transition. They are “walking a tightrope”, in their words, between responding to the scale of the problem and managing a complex process of change. In some cases, this becomes outright opposition to proposals that MPs think may detrimentally impact their constituents, leading to disagreements over specific issues, like congestion charge zones or the rollout of heat pumps. We find the political debate has shifted from the need to do something to the pace of change, and we conclude that the quiet consensus on climate change in the UK may be coming to an end.
In this report, produced in conjunction with Green Alliance, we make recommendations for those working in UK climate politics on how to sustain the political mandate for action.
For more information please contact Steve Westlake on firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Green Alliance