Citizen’s Panel shows Highland residents concerned about climate change

Almost two thirds of residents in the Highland Council area believe that climate change is an immediate and urgent problem according to a survey of the Council’s Citizens Panel.

66.4% of 989 respondents expressed this attitude towards climate change. This is an increase from 53.8%, which was recorded in a similar survey conducted by the Council in 2011.

The survey also revealed that 87.2% of 1,027 respondents felt that climate change is either partly, mainly, or entirely caused by human activity.

These figures are higher than Scottish and UK-wide responses to similar questions. In 2014, 45% of people surveyed in Scotland viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem. This year, 81 % of respondents to the UK wide Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Public Attitude Tracking Survey felt that climate change is either partly, mainly or entirely caused by human activity.

Highland Council’s Citizen’s Panel is made up of adults living in the Highland Council area. It is designed to be representative of the adult population in the region.

The survey identified the top three priorities for addressing climate change in the Highlands, these are: Developing low carbon infrastructure; small-scale renewable energy schemes; and protecting and improving landscapes to store and capture carbon in soil and plants.

The survey also showed that there are high levels of support for community projects that would enhance or improve use of the natural environment:

  • 86% of respondents “strongly agree” or “agree” with the statement: “Improving access to the natural environment can help to protect it, and encourage people to access, manage, and improve the environment they live in.”
  • 79% felt that it was “very important” to have public gardens, parks, countryside or other green spaces nearby
  • 51.3% of respondents indicated that they “definitely will support” habitat restoration or tree planting projects 
  • 34.9% of respondents “definitely will support” community growing or allotment schemes.

The survey found that residents in the Highland area felt connected to their local community and wanted to support local businesses and projects that helped to address climate change: 

  • 45% said that they would be interested in financially supporting community-owned renewable energy projects in their local area.
  • 92% of respondents indicated their reason for “buying locally sourced products” is to support local businesses, with 73% indicating that they prioritised “locally sourced” when buying fresh food
  • 21% of respondents who indicate that they currently volunteer in a community group or organisation are currently taking action to address climate change or are involved in environmental sustainability

The survey also revealed the financial difficulty that Highland residents face while heating their homes in winter. 36.7% of respondents indicated it was either “Difficult” or “Very Difficult” to heat their home to a comfortable temperature. Whilst24.7% of respondents indicated that they were heating their home to a temperature below a comfortable level due to cost.

When asked what steps they had taken to make their homes more energy efficient, the three most popular measures were loft insulation (88.9%), energy efficient light bulbs (84.1%) and central heating timers (69.7%).

However, some respondents highlighted barriers to making their homes more energy efficient. The two main issues were the type of home they lived in (32.6%) while 22.7% said they couldn’t afford to.

Leader of the Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: “This survey shows that residents in Highland have a progressive, proactive view towards tackling climate change. The Council will continue to look for ways to cut its carbon footprint and help communities reduce their own emissions.

“It is less encouraging that some residents in Highland are struggling with the cost of heating their home. We are committed to tackling fuel poverty by working with our partners to promote fair domestic fuel pricing.”

If you are struggling with heating costs, Home Energy Scotland is a Scottish Government service that provides clear and impartial advice on keeping your home warm. For help, call 0808 808 2282 or visit http://www.homeenergyscotland.org/

2 Dec 2015
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