© Photography by Beryl Bikes
A new CAST survey report, produced in collaboration with Cornwall Council as part of a year-long project, has revealed that Cornwall residents are more concerned about climate change than the rest of the UK and strongly back climate action.
In our new survey report: ‘Cornwall Council behaviour change and engagement programme – survey of residents’, written by Dr Mark Wilson and CAST Director Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE in collaboration with Cornwall Council, we asked 859 Cornwall residents about their perceptions of climate change and their current behaviours in four key lifestyle areas: travel, home energy use, products they buy, and food.
We also looked at their willingness to alter some of these behaviours in favour of low-carbon alternatives and analysed to what extent the cost-of-living crisis has already prompted behaviour change, as well as their confidence levels in Cornwall Council in addressing climate change.
Cornwall residents are highly aware and supportive of climate action
One key finding of the report was that Cornwall residents showed overwhelming support for backing climate action and are more likely to be open to advice that is ‘framed around the economic benefits of climate action’. As an example, people supported policies that reduced carbon emissions and heating costs; 72.7% agreed that measures to tackle the cost-of-living crisis can also be beneficial in tackling climate change.
The report also highlighted that Cornwall residents are highly aware of what is happening with the climate crisis, believing that Cornwall is already experiencing multiple climate-related impacts, including droughts and severe storms. They were also far more concerned about climate change than the national average and placed most responsibility on the government and businesses to address the climate crisis, compared to Cornwall Council or individual households.
Active travel is on the rise, but residents still face barriers
The most challenging lifestyle area for Cornwall residents to change is travel, with car travel reported to be the most popular form of transport, especially for commuters (38%), which continues to be a challenge due to Cornwall’s rural location. However, despite this, our findings show that there is a strong interest among residents in active travel and a moderate interest in public transport.
Nearly a quarter (20%) claimed they were thinking about buying an e-bike and one third said that they were also already considering buying an electric car. However, making the switch to more sustainable travel isn’t always easy for some, people face personal and practical barriers such as long journey distances, concerns around safety and a lack of walking/cycling infrastructure.
To address these concerns, respondents have suggested that the Council support public transport and cycle lanes as well as developing renewable energy infrastructure and using regulations to raise environmental standards for new housing. They also gave their widespread support for travel policies which reduce emissions as well as improve their health and wellbeing.
Overall, our findings indicate strong public support for various policy measures which the Council is already implementing to reduce emissions and provide societal co-benefits.
CAST Research Associate Dr Mark Wilson, co-author of the study, stressed the importance of both individual and systemic change:
“It’s striking that residents are so concerned and informed about the climate crisis, and that they are keen to play their part. However, while every individual has a crucial part to play in reaching net zero, they will need continued actions taken at a higher level including by the Council and government to enable them to make low carbon choices.”
Our CAST Director Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE, co-author of the report, adds:
“Our research reveals that people in Cornwall are even more concerned about climate change than those living elsewhere in the UK; they are also keen to play their part in tackling it but need the right support to help them change their behaviour.”
Councillor Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, said:
“We commend our residents for recognising and voicing the need to urgently take action on climate change. This report will help us frame our next phase of action on lowering emissions in Cornwall, a journey which has already seen us launch initiatives such as our Climate Emergency Development Plan Document to improve emissions standards of new homes; a raft of green travel measures such as the bus fares pilot; and supporting energy innovation such as deep geothermal and wind power.”
This report was produced in collaboration with Cornwall Council to help develop recommendations for encouraging low-carbon behaviours and to provide an evidence base to inform the Council’s Climate Action. For more information, read our press release and report.