What and when is the Census?

A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. In the UK the census is a survey that takes place every 10 years and forms an accurate way of creating a detailed snapshot of society. The census asks questions about you, your household and your home. The information from the census helps the government and local authorities to plan and fund local services and other public bodies. The official date for the upcoming UK census is the 21st March 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and March 2022 in Scotland. However, census information packs are being sent out prior to this with the possibility for people to complete before this date if they prefer.

What is the ‘Climate Census’ campaign?

Climate Census is a grassroots campaign group, created in response to the UK government’s inaction on the climate emergency, aiming to empower those living in the UK to channel their voices via the upcoming census and urge the government to act. 

If enough people take part in this legal, safe, digital action it could send a clear message to the government quite how concerned the public are about the climate crisis. Not only this but census data is used to help a wide range of people and organisations do their work and decide where to allocate funds, which could therefore be influenced by a significant number of people identifying as climate concerned. 

How does it work?

Similar to the ‘Jedi’ movement in 2001 where over 390,000 in the UK declared their religion as Jedi, climate census are suggesting use of the religious section of the form to declare ourselves ‘climate concerned’. Obviously when using the census for such an action there are limited areas of the form which can be utilised – the religion section of the census is voluntary, which may prompt those who might otherwise have left it blank to document their concern for the climate emergency.

How to take part (taken from the Climate Census website): 


The government will provide you with access to a paper or online version of the census up to 1 week prior to census day – 21 March 2021 for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.


As you complete the census, look out for the “What is your religion?” section.


Select or tick the ‘Any other religion, write in’ option and write in ‘CLIMATE CONCERNED’.

NB the Climate Census campaign originally hoped it would be possible to identify as both an actual religion and ‘climate concerned’. However, the ONS (office of national statistics) have since confirmed that it will only be possible to identify as one religion (on the paper version of the form only the first answer will be recorded). The campaign believe this decision is restrictive to people’s ability to self-identify, and do not ask anyone to prioritise this action over declaring their religious identity. However, where this is not the case, they encourage you to consider taking part.

Why use the Census?

The pandemic has not only distracted the government and public from climate change, but has greatly limited how we can voice climate concerns and demand action. The census presents a simple, covid-safe opportunity to hold the government accountable. Protesting out on streets also isn’t for everyone. Digital actions such as Climate Census can be a much more accessible way of voicing concerns for the public who otherwise would not partake in direct action style protests. 

The Census has also historically been used for protests and statements, such as the aforementioned Jedi census phenomenon and the suffragette’s ‘No vote, no census’ protest which called for women to boycott the census altogether as they weren’t allowed to vote.  

Why do we need to take action? 

In May 2019 the UK government declared a climate emergency and became the first major economy to commit to Net Zero emissions by 2050. However, subsequent action has been inadequate, as verified by the CCC’s report last year.

Last November, Boris Johnson announced his Green Industrial Revolution plans, which although has some important steps, such as a quicker phase-out of petrol and diesel cars, has been widely criticised for being inadequate and fixating on speculative solutions like carbon capture.

The figures that have been pledged for a green recovery are dwarfed by those for road building, HS2 construction and the money pledged by other European countries. Since then, the government has allowed approval of a deep coal mine in Cumbria and expansion of Leeds Bradford airport amongst other disappointing decisions which undermine the UK’s credibility ahead of the delayed COP26 conference in Glasgow this November – largely touted as the world’s last chance to avoid climate catastrophe. 

On top of this, reaching Net Zero by 2050 still only gives a 50:50 chance of staying below 1.5°C.

How Can I Get Involved?

  • Head over to the Climate Census website and take the pledge to help the campaign keep track of numbers, there is an option to then share this on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Follow and support the Climate Census social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • Spread the word to family and friends living in the UK. 
  • Join the social media campaign by:
    • Take a photo of yourself with a placard/banner with ‘#ClimateCensus’ and/or ‘Climate concerned’ written on it, or take a photo once you have completed the census declaring yourself ‘Climate concerned’.
    • Share on instagram or other social media channels, with a message about why you are taking part.
    • Tag @climatecensusuk and use the hashtags #climatecensus, #census2021, #cyfrifiad2021 and #NIcensus2021.

More Questions?

Head over to the FAQ section of the climate census website for a comprehensive list of questions with answers. Can’t see your answer there? Get in touch with the campaign runners at ClimateCensus@gmail.com.

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