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Consumers want to be seen as ‘green’ but a shift in behaviour is not evident when it comes doing things differently to address climate change, Permanent TSB and Kantar research shows.

Latest edition of #ReflectingIreland research series highlights major disconnect between what consumers think about climate change and what they do.

  • Two thirds of us (63%) feel it’s important to be seen as environmentally friendly. However the link between how we want to be seen and the actions we are prepared to take is tenuous.
  • A similar proportion of us (63%) believe our household is already doing all it can to reduce our carbon footprint; one in three (34%) feel their personal behaviour will not make any difference to climate change
  • Consumers are less enthusiastic about paying more for Electric Vehicles or retrofitting their houses to use less energy without a Government subsidy
  • Significant deterioration in consumer sentiment on the wider economy; 42% now feel the country is moving in the wrong direction, up from 35% in July 

Two in three consumers feel they are already doing all they can possibly do to tackle climate change, according to the latest Reflecting Ireland research from Permanent TSB Bank and research consultancy Kantar.

The research also suggests one in three (34%) feel their personal behaviour will not make any difference to climate change, while 27% believe there is not enough evidence to link our personal behaviour to climate change.

In addition, there is evidence of opposition to measures that would add a cost to consumers in order to change personal behaviour, such as higher taxes on air travel; making petrol or diesel cars more expensive; or asking people to foot the costs of retrofitting their homes to reduce energy consumption.

The research shows that relying solely on concern about climate change to motivate people to take action is rarely enough. Evidence from behavioural research* shows that focusing on the opportunity to save money as a primary message, supported by the benefits for the climate as a secondary one, is a much more powerful motivator than focusing on benefits for the climate alone.

The findings are contained in the latest edition of the #ReflectingIreland behavioural research carried out by Permanent TSB and Kantar, which is designed to explore consumer behaviour and understand better the factors that are having significant impacts on our economy. The research was conducted in October among a nationally representative sample of 1,007 adults aged 18+.  

Leontia Fannin, Head of Corporate Affairs at Permanent TSB, said the findings suggest a major disconnect between a perceived urgency among people to tackle climate change and their individual willingness to take personal action.

She said: “Our research indicates many people need greater incentives to change their personal behaviour in support of wider moves to address climate change.

It is noteworthy that two-thirds of people feel it’s important to be seen to be environmentally aware but the same number feel they are already doing all they can and that any further changes are for others to make.

This suggests there is still a significant challenge to persuade people of the role they can play at a personal level to address climate change – and for financial institutions and other service providers to help make it easier and more attractive for people to change their behaviours.”

Paul Moran of Kantar remarked that “these findings have implications not just for individuals, but also for a wider range of interests. Companies and brands may have to re-evaluate the assumptions they have made regarding consumers’ perceptions of climate change and sustainability, but also policy makers will need to take heed of what the public expects their role to be”

Behavioural Scientist Claire Cogan of BehaviourWise who worked on the project, said:  “Our research reveals that despite high awareness and concern about climate change, when seen in the context of our day-to-day lives climate change is competing with many other issues for our attention and not always winning. The priority now is to convince people to take action and that their efforts will make a difference, and then help them move from intention to action.”

Our research shows that relying solely on concern about

Key findings of the survey include:

Primary responsibility for addressing climate change: 27% say it is primarily up to Government to address climate change, 23% say it is a personal responsibility and 16% say that the onus is on the construction/manufacturing sector.

Willingness to change car use: 61% say we need to move away from dependency on petrol or diesel cars but only 32% have walked, cycled or used public transport instead of using a car at least once in the past 3 months

Little enthusiasm for more taxes on air travel and petrol/diesel cars: Just 31% favour higher taxes on petrol/diesel cars compared to 43% opposing such a move, while less than half (47%) favour higher taxes on air travel

Willingness to change eating habits: 54% say they are willing to change what they eat but only 30% have substituted meat with a meat-free alternative at least once in the last 3 months

Willingness to retrofit house to save energy: 24% say they would do this at their own expense; 64% say they would do it if they received a government subsidy

Cost of behaving sustainably: 71% believe that behaving in an environmentally friendly way will cost them money.

Climate not a priority: Only 6% of respondents think climate action is the biggest issue affecting them, with the cost of living, healthcare and housing seen as more important.

Urban/rural divide: People living in cities and towns show a greater appetite for climate-friendly measures such as taxes to promote green initiatives (38% in favour in urban areas, versus 28% in favour in rural locations) and a ban on smoky fuels (54% in favour in cities and towns, versus 38% elsewhere). Reflecting the wider availability of public transport alternatives, Urbanites were also more likely to agree that reduced usage of cars was a reasonable proposition (35% vs 25%).

Gender divide: Women were more likely to change their eating habits to address climate change (60% of women, versus 47% of men). Women were also more likely than men to want to be seen as being environmentally aware (69% versus 57%).

Consumer sentiment shows signs of deteriorating

The research also examined consumer attitudes to the economy. It found that:

  • 42% feel the country is going in the wrong direction, up from 35% in Q3
  • 50% are in a positive mood but 50% feel negative (versus 53% positive/47% negative in Q3)
  • Only 28% feel they will be better off next year, down from 33% in Q3

To read the full report click here

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