No climate ‘backlash’ in Irish public opinion, Friends of the Earth survey finds

Most people in Ireland ‘very concerned about climate change and solidly supportive of Government action to cut polluting emissions’

There is no significant shift in Irish public opinion against climate action, in contrast to other European countries where there is rowback on support for the EU green deal and the controversial nature restoration law, according to an Irish survey due to be published on Monday.

The research, conducted by Ireland Thinks and involving 1,704 people, for Friends of the Earth shows Irish people are concerned about climate change and supportive of climate action – with no sign of an urban/rural divide.

The results from the poll of attitudes to climate change and climate policies will be presented at a Friends of the Earth conference on faster and fairer climate action in Dublin to mark Earth Day.

Friends chief executive Oisín Coghlan said: “The majority of people in Ireland remain very concerned about climate change and solidly supportive of Government action to cut polluting emissions. If anything, the data shows they want the Government to do more.”


About one-fifth of people name climate as one of the top-three priority issues that will influence their vote in coming elections – a lot more than the 4 per cent who say they will vote Green.

When people were asked to name issues that would most influence their vote in the European elections in June, climate came third at 23 per cent. That compares to 6 per cent who had farming in their top-three issues.

A majority of people (56 per cent) are more worried about climate change than they were two years ago. That is made up of 31 per cent who are somewhat more worried and 25 per cent who are a lot more worried.

Some 47 per cent of people said climate change “is a big problem and we’re not doing enough to tackle it”. That includes 49 per of Sinn Féin voters and 56 per cent of Fine Gael voters.

Asked specifically about what the Government was doing about climate change, 43 per cent said “the Government is not doing enough, fast enough, to cut Ireland’s [carbon] pollution”.

Crucially, Mr Coghlan said, the 25 per cent saying “the Government is doing too much, too fast, to cut Ireland’s pollution” is one point less than gave that answer last year, so there is no sign of an upsurge in anti-climate action sentiment.

More people agree “the model of Irish agriculture based on maximising exports of beef and dairy products is unsustainable and will need to change” than disagree with it – by 43 to 42 per cent.

Some 82 per cent of people think we should be “paying farmers more for what we need most from the land: local food, clean water and less climate pollution”. A total of 73 per cent think we should be “regulating the use of chemical nitrogen fertiliser, a big source of water pollution” while 50 per cent think we should be “supporting farmers to diversify away from beef and dairy, two of the most polluting forms of agriculture” – compared with 37 per cent who disagree.

Some 53 per cent strongly support “continuing to invest twice as much in new public transport as in new roads” as opposed only 6 per cent who strongly oppose it. Overall, 76 per cent support it compared to 13 per cent who oppose it.

Two-thirds of people favour “targeting grants for electric cars at people in rural areas”, as opposed to being available to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis.

A majority of people support “an indefinite pause on connecting new data centres to the electricity and gas grids” – by 51 to 31 per cent.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times