Survey: Strong Support for Emissions Reductions

Solar panelsAs international leaders convene in Poland for two weeks of climate negotiations, recent surveys suggest a global consensus for governments to reduce their country's emissions.

Despite increased financial instability, residents of both the industrialized and developing worlds are in favor of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy, according to two public opinion polls released late last month.

More than three-quarters of respondents polled across 11 nations and Hong Kong in a survey released on Wednesday support emissions-reduction targets that are at least as ambitious as the promises of other countries, according to the HSBC Climate Partnership, a collaboration of business and environmental groups.

Asked whether their government should reduce emissions as much or more than other nations, on average 77 percent of respondents were in favor. Polls from Canada, Australia, and Brazil suggested above average support among residents there. Responses were also favorable in China (62 percent) and the United States (72 percent).

"This research demonstrates the need for decisive action on climate change," said Nicholas Stern, an HSBC adviser and former World Bank chief economist, in a prepared statement.

Leaders from the surveyed nations are meeting in Poznań, Poland, this week to negotiate a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The conference serves as a midway point in the negotiation process. At last year's meeting in Bali, Indonesia, leaders agreed to finalize the treaty by next December's climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

In addition to supporting reduced emissions, on average 77 percent of respondents of a University of Maryland-managed survey said they support greater government emphasis on solar and wind energy, according to the 21-nation poll. The study found majority support for clean energy in 20 of the surveyed nations.

Asked whether their governments should require electric utilities to use more solar or wind energy, even if the transition increases energy costs, all nations were in favor except for Russia (36 percent support) and Azerbaijan (48 percent), two major oil producers. Support was highest in South Korea (96 percent), France (88 percent), and Kenya (87 percent).

The HSBC Climate Partnership survey also reflected growing international support for renewable energy. When asked how their government should address climate change, respondents rated clean energy investments as the highest priority in seven of the 12 regions surveyed. Respondents in all regions except for China said their governments were not currently doing enough to accelerate alternative energy sources.

The University of Maryland study, a collaborative research project of WorldPublicOpinion.org, noted that support for coal or oil-fired power plants also remains high. Germany is the only country where a majority of survey respondents, 62 percent, said their government should place less emphasis on these fossil fuel energy sources.

The 188 world leaders in attendance at Poznań are expected to debate several new policies to better transfer clean energy technologies to the developing world. Several funding options will also be discussed.  

The HSBC Climate Partnership, conducted in September, polled 6,000 people from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and 6,000 online respondents from Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, and Mexico.

The WorldPublicOpinion.org poll, conducted between July 15 and November 4, surveyed 20,790 people from Argentina, Azerbaijan, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Macau, Mexico, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States. It had a sampling error of plus or minus 2-4 percent.

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at bblock@worldwatch.org.

For permission to republish this article, please contact Julia Tier at jtier@worldwatch.org.