The axing of televised lobby briefings on Tuesday has meant a new role for Boris Johnson's press secretary Allegra Stratton. Now recast as the government's spokeswoman for the forthcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow, it will be her job to front communications both strategically and publicly in the lead up to the event in November. The climate change eco-jamboree is seen as Johnson's moment on the world stage, with insiders suggesting it will be 'bigger than the Olympics' replete even with its own mascot.
But new figures seen by Steerpike suggests Stratton will have her work cut out in efforts to enthuse the public. Only one in five British adults have heard of COP26, according to a poll of 1,500 people by Redfield and Wilton, with 80 per cent remaining in the dark about the forthcoming conference which now even has its own minister in the unexciting form of Alok Sharma. With today of course being Earth Day – the annual eco-shindig to signal one's support for environmental protection – Steerpike thought it would be useful to find out what the British people think of proposed efforts to save the planet.
Unsurprisingly the tactics of direct action mob Extinction Rebellion – whose window smashing efforts attracted yet more negative headlines this morning – find less favour with the British public. More than a third, 35 per cent, say they 'disapprove' of the group and its climate activism with just a fifth or 21 per cent approving of it. A further 15 per cent 'don't know' how to interpret actions such as shutting down a print works with 29 per cent plumping for 'neither approve nor disapprove.' Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who snubbed entreaties to attend the COP summit, is meanwhile met with 36 per cent approval by the British public and 25 per cent disapproval.
— Extinction Rebellion UK 🌍 (@XRebellionUK) April 22, 2021
"It's time to stand up and be counted," activist Gully Bujak, 28, said. "Doing this today may land us in prison but we're on the right side of history."https://t.co/chWFoiYUZF
Windfarms, higher taxes and a ban on battery farmed chickens are all narrowly supported by the public but a proposed 'meat tax' to take account of emissions was judged a step too far. Some 36 per cent say they would support 'personally paying more in taxes' to fund environmental initiatives against 30 per cent who say they would oppose with the remaining 34 per cent either on the fence or opting for 'don't know.' Banning factory farms even if it meant 'a significant increase in the price of meat' was supported by 37 per cent to 25 per cent hostile to the idea.
The building of more wind farms in the UK was the most popular measure polled, being supported by 67 per cent to just 9 per cent against, with 60 per cent agreeing they 'would support more windfarms being built in their local area' compared to 14 per cent willing to admit they'd oppose. Some 44 per cent of the public meanwhile support a 'frequent flyer tax' whereby for every flight a person takes, the amount of tax they pay on their next one increases, compared to 27 per cent opposed. But a tax to dissuade consumption of meat was rejected by two fifths of voters – 40 per cent – against support of 31 per cent.
Overall, the UK was judged to be 'just as environmentally friendly' as other European countries by 30 per cent, with 25 per cent going for 'more' friendly and 22 per cent 'less' – still some way to go then. Steerpike hopes that Stratton's efforts to run a successful COP26 go better than her last government comms campaign.