Cost-of-living crisis affecting London’s ability to prevent climate change

  • By Zak Bond


As we enter the week of COP27, a year on from Glasgow, research commissioned by London Councils to gauge Londoners’ understanding of climate change and the effect it has on their lives shows the vast majority of Londoners (84%) are concerned about climate change. This is the third year of annual polling London Councils has commissioned on this topic. 

However, those surveyed believe the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact on their ability to take action to prevent climate change. 40% of Londoners think the cost-of-living crisis has definitely made it more difficult for them to take action to help prevent climate change, with 36% saying it has made it slightly more difficult. 

Key findings

  • The vast majority of Londoners (89%) surveyed are motivated to help prevent climate change. 
  • People are also becoming more worried about climate change with 72% of Londoners saying their level of concern has increased over the past 12 months. 
  • Concern about climate change is very high in all age segments.
  • Only 2 per cent of Londoners responded that they do not believe in climate change when asked ‘How concerned are you about climate change?’. This matches all previous years’ survey results. 
  • 62% of Londoners say their day-to-day life in London has been impacted by the changing climate, for example by heatwaves or flooding, compared to 55% last year.
  • 60% of Londoners say that climate change affects their day-to-day decision making.

Changing behaviours

In order to prevent climate change, scientists have said that the general public needs to change their behaviour alongside government and private sector action. So we asked Londoners to indicate which options they are doing currently and which they would consider doing in the future to help prevent climate change across the themes of:

  • What we eat
  • Transport
  • Energy and heating
  • Consumer choices

We also asked people who weren’t already doing something about the barriers to them doing it. 

Changing what we eat

Meat production is a source of greenhouse gases, the main source of emissions from food, and the average levels of meat consumption must be reduced for us to meet our emissions targets, so we asked Londoners if they would be happy to change their meat intake to help tackle climate change. The results can be seen in the table below.

Our polling reveals that 'preference' was the main barrier to changing consumption of meat.  Some people stated that they are already eating cultured meat, which is currently under development and not available to buy in the UK, but it is viewed as a potential means by which meat can be produced with a very low environmental impact and thereby enable meat eating to continue at current levels.


Transport choices

Tackling transport emissions is a key part of tackling climate change, so people’s willingness and ability to take more sustainable forms of transport is a crucial section of the net zero puzzle. The table below shows that many Londoners are already using or are willing to consider more sustainable modes of transport.

The main barriers people see to commuting by public transport are preference and availability, with the lowest being cost and social, suggesting that more people would pick this more sustainable mode of transport if there were more routes and/or more regular services. 27% of people who said they weren't walking or cycling to work said it is ‘unavailable’, likely due to distance. 

Outside of the commute preference is a clear main barrier to the use of public transport and walking and cycling.

When it comes to purchasing a greener vehicle, either a hybrid or an electric car, cost and availability are the clear main barriers. Many people also report not being interested in this – possibly people in inner London who have no need for a private car.

When asked about why they wouldn’t give up flying or only fly once a year, cost and time were the least cited barriers. Instead, people cited their preference and interest. This suggests that people might be happy to take more expensive train journeys for holiday, if this is promoted more as an option. 

Energy and heat changes

Housing in London is a major source of the city’s climate emissions and many Londoners are already taking action in this area as the table below reveals.

Cost is a current barrier which prohibits Londoners from choosing greener energy or heating options. Nearly half (41%) said it was too expensive to pay more for a greener heating option, with 33% of people saying it was too expensive to replace gas heating with a lower carbon option, such as heat pump or electric storage heaters and 37% saying it was too expensive to install solar panels at home. 

These findings demonstrate the importance of central government funding for people to make changes in this area.

Consumer choices

Consumer goods and services comprise a smaller proportion of Londoners’ greenhouse gas footprints, but they do show how willing Londoners are to making lifestyle changes to help tackle climate change.

As the table below shows, Londoners are currently reducing their impact across a range of behaviours. 46% of Londoners are recycling old clothes and electrical goods, while 47% are reducing clothing purchases, 34% repairing clothes and 34% purchasing energy efficient electrical goods.

Across most options, the reasons for not taking actions are fairly evenly split. When it comes to buying second-hand clothes, 40% of people cite preference as the reason they wouldn’t do this or consider it.



The polling data clearly shows that Londoners are well informed about climate change and concerned about its effects and that concern is increasing. But this isn’t leading to climate despair – Londoners want to see action and they want to be part of that change. The public clearly support ambitious action, which will require decision makers to lead the changes needed, including enabling greater action by individuals.

We know that local government will be a key player in delivering that transition to net zero, thanks to its unique understanding of local context and strong local relationships. National government must support local government in its delivery of climate action and a just transition that creates good jobs.

London boroughs are committed to tackling the climate emergency alongside all of London’s diverse communities. Almost all London boroughs have now committed to net zero targets before 2050, and the majority of boroughs have published final or draft Climate Action Plans setting out how they will meet those ambitions.

Boroughs are working together across seven collaborative climate programmes facilitated by London Councils, from retrofitting London’s homes, to securing renewable power and creating a green and resilient city – to share best practice, join up activity and grasp economies of scale.

London boroughs continue to champion collaborative efforts to create new funding sources for net zero programmes at a community level. In addition, London Councils is working alongside Core Cities and Connected Places Catapult to attract large scale capital investment to support substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions and engage urban areas across the UK to accelerate common, investible solutions to the climate crisis. 

Read more about this polling on our website. 2022 marks the third year in which this annual polling of Londoners on the topic of climate change has been carried out.  

The study was conducted by Kantar in London via OnLineBus, an Internet omnibus survey. A sample of 1010 London adults aged 16+ were interviewed between 1 to 6 September 2022.

Join us for webinar exclusively for councillors on Tuesday 15 November 1.00pm to 1.45pm looking at the impact of climate change on London and its communities, and what councils are doing to respond.

Zak Bond, Principal Policy and Project Officer (Climate Change)