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Billionaires should focus their money on climate change rather than space travel, says public

New research shows the public believe the wealthy's financial resources are ill-spent on activities like space exploration, and should be focused on issues like climate change instead.


Press release

London, UK – More than 70% of the public want wealthy individuals to pay higher taxes to cover the costs of climate change, finds a new flagship survey of 2,000 adults.

The same study also reveals that an even higher proportion of the public (75%) want the mega-rich to focus their financial resources on the problems facing Earth, like climate change, before space travel.

This will be read as a stinging rebuke to the activities of ‘space billionaires’ Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos over the last 12 months. The results also come as public concern about climate change reaches an all-time high following the recent COP26 summit.

Jordan Greenaway, Partner at Transmission Private, said: “The research suggests that a large proportion of the public feel, rightly or wrongly, that some members of the billionaire class are out of touch with the problems facing the planet.

“This is a sentiment that could pave the way to more calls from the public for targeted climate taxes on the lifestyles of the wealthy individuals in the New Year.”

The study also points out that the proportion of the public who support higher taxes on wealthy people to pay for the costs of climate change outstrips the percentage who back higher taxes on the rich in general.

Jordan Greenaway added: “This result is not just a sign that the public want the rich to pay more tax. They feel particularly strongly about wealthy individuals paying for the costs of climate change.

“This might signal that the public feel that the causes of climate change fall disproportionately at the feet of wealthy individuals, whether it's because of their use of private planes or otherwise."

But it wasn’t all bad news for wealthy individuals. Younger respondents were notably less likely to support higher levels of tax – and they were also more likely to think favourably of wealthy individuals dedicating their resources to space exploration and travel.

In fact, while nearly 8 in 10 people over the age of 65 said that they thought ultra-high-net-worth individuals should focus their resources on Earth over space, the same figure was just 66% for people aged between 18- and 24-years-old.

Jordan Greenaway said: “We are increasingly advising our clients to get on the front foot when it comes to communicating the steps they are taking to combat climate change.

“Many HNWIs are taking solid steps to promote the Net Zero agenda, whether it’s making their businesses more sustainable, investing in environmentally-impactful start-ups, or shifting their investment portfolios to ESG funds.

“But there is still some resistance to talking about this activity for fear of being criticised. While this anxiety is understandable, if many UHNWIs continue to try to sit on the sidelines of this debate, they will soon find themselves facing a wave of very public discontent.”

The survey was commissioned by Transmission Private, a leading communication agency known for advising many of the world’s most successful people on their reputations. It was undertaken by polling agency OnePoll.

Transmission Private publishes a monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management for private clients.

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