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IAG Climate Change Poll: NZ On The Right Track To Battle Climate Change, But COVID Stands In The Way

The third annual IAG New Zealand Ipsos Climate Change opinion poll has found that while New Zealanders are increasingly positive that the government and the country are on the right track to battle climate change, they are concerned the COVID-19 crisis will get in the way.

The survey of 1,000 people, commissioned by IAG and conducted by Ipsos Ltd between 18 to 24 June 2020, found that New Zealanders think the Government is doing a better job in responding to climate change and the country is heading in the right direction, but that the response is not moving fast enough.

The poll also found New Zealanders are more concerned about climate change because of COVID-19 and think it should be part of the economic recovery plan but are concerned that COVID-19 will delay the response to climate change.

IAG New Zealand sustainability and climate change spokesperson, Bryce Davies says New Zealand can’t afford to lose its focus on climate change. “Reducing and adapting to the impacts of climate change must be part of our economic response to COVID-19.”

Climate change continues to be an important issue for New Zealanders, with the majority of those interviewed thinking they will be personally impacted and, as a consequence, will be taking steps to reduce those impacts. Interestingly, 31 percent are more concerned by the impact of climate change on them, than about their impact on climate change.

Mr Davies says IAG’s third annual survey focussed more closely on New Zealanders’ readiness to adapt and their expectations of government, business and other New Zealanders in helping them to do so. “No matter what steps are taken to reduce climate change, we cannot escape its impacts and we all have to start thinking about how we are going to adapt to them.

“The poll highlights that to successfully adapt the country needs better information on impacts and solutions, to find solutions to avoid the worst of those impacts, and to decide how we pay for it all,” says Mr Davies.

The survey shows that New Zealanders understand the physical impacts that climate change will bring, with recent experiences of drought and water shortages adding to their understanding.

New Zealanders want more information on what they can do to reduce the impacts that climate change will have on them, and feel that both central and local government have a role in providing this.

People also understand that climate change will impact where people live, with many expecting they will be personally affected and would like to see local councils use their zoning and consenting powers to reduce the impact of climate change. New Zealanders also want central and local government to spend more reducing the impact of climate change, but are less willing to pay for this through higher taxes and rates.

People have conflicting views about the pricing of climate risk, with some wanting banks and insurers to reflect it in their products, and others wanting cross-subsidisation and government intervention. “People are uncertain about the role that insurers and banks should play,” says Mr Davies.

In the year since the last poll, South Canterbury bore the brunt of the second most costly weather event of the 21st century, the Timaru hailstorm, which cost more than $130 million in insurance claims. IAG alone dealt with more than 12,500 claims as a result of the storm. New Zealand skies turned red and brown during the summer due to the Black Summer Australian bushfires which burnt through an estimated 186,000 square kilometres, destroying 5,900 buildings, killing a billion animals and 34 people, and costing an estimated five billion New Zealand dollars. Since the poll, Northland has suffered a 1 in 500-year rainstorm which has resulted in more than 1,000 claims so far for IAG alone. The recovery effort is expected to last months.

“As New Zealand’s leading insurer, IAG is committed to not only taking climate action to reduce emissions, but also to working with government, our industry and our customers to fill the knowledge gaps that exist – and importantly, help New Zealand take the necessary steps to adapt to a changing climate,” says Mr Davies.

Note for editors: IAG New Zealand is the largest general insurer in the country, trading under our brands AMI, State, NZI, NAC, Lumley and Lantern. We employ over 3,000 people, insure more than 1.8 million New Zealanders and more than $650 billion of commercial and domestic assets.

For assistance, please contact:
IAG External Communications +64 27 405 9335 or media@iag.co.nz

The detailed findings can be found below, or in more detail here. The survey has a margin of error of ±3.1%.

NZ’s response to climate change

  • 46% think that government actions in response to climate change are good (up from 33% in 2018)
  • 39% agree that New Zealand will be able to reduce emission to reach its current targets (up from 33% in 2019)
  • 41% agree that New Zealand will be able to reduce the impacts that climate change will have on home, business and communities (up from 32% in 2019)
  • 45% agree that New Zealand’s current response to climate change is on the right track
  • 28% agree that New Zealand’s current response is moving fast enough to have a real impact

Impact of Covid-19

  • 35% agree that COVID-19 has made climate change more important to them
  • 86% think that climate change should be part of the economic recovery plan
  • 45% think that COVID will delay our response to climate change

Level of concern

  • 79% agree that climate change is an important issue to them personally
  • 68% have become more concerned about climate change over the past few years
  • 62% think that they will be affected by the impacts of climate change

Physical impacts of climate change

  • 59% are already taking steps to reduce the impacts that climate change will have on them
  • 88% think we will see more frequent and extreme droughts (up from 84% on 2019)
  • 87% think we will see more frequent and extreme water shortages (up from 80% in 2019)
  • 86% think we will see inundation of coastal locations due to sea level rise
  • 86% think we will see more frequent and extreme storms
  • 84% think we will see more frequent and extreme floods

Personal impacts of climate change

  • 75% think land use will need to be rethought
  • 70% think some people may need to move from where they live
  • 74% think people should factor a changing climate into their major decision (e.g. deciding where to live)
  • 72% want local councils to zone land specifically to reduce and avoid the impact of climate change (up from 64% in 2019)
  • 65% agree that local councils should only consent developments and buildings that reduce or avoid the impact of climate change (up from 60% in 2019)
  • 41% expect they will personally have to accept more stringent council rules about where and how they live
  • 32% expect they will personally have to forego where they want to live or what they can build

Funding of climate change adaptation

  • 77% agree that the Government should use funds to help build infrastructure that reduce the impact of climate change. 72% agree that local councils should do the same
  • 48% agree that the Government should buy out property owners severely impacted by climate change due to flooding or inundation. 46% agree that local councils should do the same
  • 32% agree that the Government should raise taxes to fund the response to climate change
  • 32% agree that local councils should raise rates to fund their response to climate change

Pricing of climate risk

  • 44% agree that insurers should raise premiums for homes and businesses that face more risk
  • 43% agree that banks should be lending less or for shorter periods to people and businesses that face more risk
  • 46% agree that banks and insurers should no longer support carbon-intensive businesses
  • 28% agree that insurers and banks should have those in low-risk locations to help pay for high-risk locations
  • 48% agree the Government should step in when insurers and banks pull back from insuring and lending to high-risk locations

Information gaps

  • 80% agree that people should do more to better understand the wide-ranging impacts of climate change
  • 58% agree that they keep up to date on the expected and current impacts of climate change
  • 34% agree that they have all the information they need to reduce the impacts of climate change will have on them
  • 78% agree that central government should fund science to help reduce climate change
  • 80% agree that local councils should provide information on the local impacts of climate change

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