Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

The rich have the biggest carbon footprints in the UK

By David Thompson
Politics Show

Nearly all of us talk a good game about global warming and climate change - who doesn't want to save the world?

And most people think reducing our carbon footprint is a Good Thing.

David Cameron
David Cameron's constituents are among the biggest polluters

Politicians tell us it is one of their top priorities and, with the focus on next week's gathering of world leaders in Copenhagen, expect climate change to accelerate as waves of warm words are emitted about our duty to the environment.

But as the chill winds of recession bite, are we the public - never mind the politicians - living up to our own rhetoric about reducing our carbon emissions?

Polar bear

People in less well-off areas are much less likely to create bigger carbon footprints.

The BBC's Politics Show has obtained research which suggests that ironically, the people who talk most about tackling climate change are the worst polluters.

Data analysts Experian have broken the UK population into 10 different categories.

They range from the self-explanatory, "eco-evangelists" to the equally blunt, "wasteful and unconvinced". "Confused but well-behaved" and "too busy to change" are somewhere in between.

Experian have found a direct link between wealth and willingness to embrace a green agenda; those most concerned about climate change tend to live in the wealthiest parts of the country.

Poorer and greener

But here's the rub. The company has also found that the richest constituencies... are also the most polluting.

For example, Chesham and Amersham in leafy Buckinghamshire has the highest level of CO2 emissions per household, while Glasgow North-East has the lowest.


David Cameron's Witney constituency is up there at number 37. The Doncaster North seat of Ed Miliband, the Environment Secretary, is a lowly 432 out of the 646 parliamentary constituencies. He'll be on the Politics Show this Sunday.

Politics Show

Ed Miliband says sticking your head in the sand is "profoundly irresponsible" to Lord Lawson from the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Stourbridge, the constituency adopted by the programme for the forthcoming general election, is, as befits its status as one of the most representative seats in Britain, slap bang in the middle of the chart in 321st place.

As Experian's Bruno Rost puts it: "The more affluent tend to be eco-evangelists. Ironically, they are usually the ones with the biggest carbon footprint."

For politicians, this data presents two problems. They must find a way of turning good intentions into changed behaviour - to put it glibly, how to stop people driving their 4x4s to the bottle bank.

At the same time, they have to make a green agenda something that is affordable for families who are feeling the pinch.

See the full details for all the UK's parliamentary seats

And that is a particular problem, since almost every proposal for tackling carbon emissions involves taxing things like energy use and transport. Those kinds of taxes would hit the poor - who are already the lowest polluters - hardest.

No one ever said that saving the world was going to be easy…

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