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Politicians out of sync with voters

Politicians are at odds with voters over net zero and energy policies, a new poll has revealed.

Nearly two thirds of the British public believe that reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy generation is the best way to ensure energy security in the UK.

But less than half of all MPs – and just 28 per cent of Conservative MPs – back this position, the YouGov survey for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has revealed.

The poll also reveals that politicians – who were serving MPs until the dissolution of parliament this week – significantly underestimate public support for solar and wind farms in their local area.

The findings suggest that both Conservative and Labour parties should be putting climate change and net zero policies more prominently in their campaigns to win office on 4 July.

Asked what they believed was the best way to achieve energy security, after more than two years of high gas and electricity bills, 62 per cent of the public said reducing the use of fossil fuels and expanding renewable energy.

Just 19 per cent of voters said the solution should be to increase the supply of fossil fuels by allowing new oil and gas exploration licences.

Last year Rishi Sunak was criticised after he gave the go-ahead to a new round of oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

Among all MPs, 48 per cent think reducing the use of fossil fuels and expanding renewables is the best option for energy security. Some 28 per cent of Tory MPs support this view, compared to 76 per cent of Labour PMs.

And 28 per cent of all MPs – nearly 10 points more than the public – are in favour of the increased use of oil and gas licences. Among Conservative MPs there are 43 per cent in favour, while just 8 per cent of Labour MPs back the expansion of fossil fuel licences.

The survey reveals vast differences between MPs’ perceptions of what sort of energy development the public would want in their local area, and what voters would actually back.

Three quarters of the public would support both a new onshore wind farm (75 per cent) and a new solar energy park (76 per cent) in their local area, with just 13 per cent opposed to both types of development.

Among MPs, however, just 20 per cent believe voters would want a wind farm in their area. This figure is as low as 6 per cent for Tory MPs, but rises to 38 per cent for Labour politicians.

And 50 per cent of all MPs, including 71 per cent of Tories and 26 per cent Labour, believe voters would oppose a new onshore wind farm locally.

The figures for a new solar energy park are similar: just 25 per cent of all MPs believe the public would back this development in their local area, including 16 per cent of Tories and 32 per cent Labour.

Around a third of all MPs believe the public would oppose a new solar farm, rising to 52 per cent of Tory MPs and 17 per cent of Labour.

There is however broad agreement between MPs and voters on the need for the UK to reach the target of net zero emissions by 2050: Some 69 per cent of the public, and 76 per cent of MPs, are in favour of this deadline, while 19 per cent of the public and 15 per cent of MPs are against.

Alasdair Johnstone at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Delays to offshore wind farms mean the UK could miss out on twenty-two times more homegrown electricity than could be generated by gas from new North Sea licences.

“Renewables can deliver much more energy security for the UK than North Sea gas which is running out. Many MPs appear to be informed more by parts of the Westminster bubble than the facts and are at odds with voters.

“Many MPs are also out of touch with just how popular solar and wind farms are among their constituents, maybe the result of a few shrill voices not representing the silent majority.”

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