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Public urge caution on climate change policy, survey suggest

Media Release

Public urge caution on climate change policy, survey suggests

2 August 2011

New Zealanders seem to want a cautious approach to climate change policy, seeing other issues as more important and expressing concern about the cost of dealing with climate change, this year’s Greenhouse Policy Coalition survey shows.

“The survey shows that in this difficult economic period, while many people feel climate change is an issue we need to deal with, they see other priorities as more important and are very concerned about any policies that impose further costs on already strained budgets,” says the Coalition’s Executive Director, David Venables.

“The overall message from the results is one of continued moderation. It should reinforce comments in recent months by the Government on continuing to moderate the impact of the emissions trading scheme on consumers and businesses. The Greenhouse Policy Coalition has previously recommended that the ETS transition measures should remain in place until there is comparable progress internationally, with retention of the $25 fixed price cap and surrender half-obligation (i.e. one carbon unit surrendered by emitters for each two tonnes of emissions). We also note the first ETS annual report, released this week, indicates the scheme is working satisfactorily with these measures in place.”

The annual poll of 500 people shows climate change rated second to bottom in order of importance to people out of a list of 10 common issues, a slight increase from its bottom placing last year. The proportion of people agreeing that climate change is a serious issue increased to 39% this year from 36.3% in 2010. This is still below the 2009 figure, when 42.6% rated climate change as a serious issue.
The survey also found:

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43% disagree that New Zealand should take part in a global emissions trading regime if it costs people $5 each a week – an increase from 38% in 2010 and 32.1% in 2009.

Just 19.4% agree that we should cut emissions if it costs jobs – slightly up from 18.1% last year, but down from 24.3% in 2009.

Only 26.8% of people agree that New Zealand should reduce its emissions if it means reducing our standard of living – a small increase from last year (23.4%), but well below the 2009 figure (34.9%).


44.2% agree with the statement “controlling emissions is mostly about saving our planet – we shouldn’t be quibbling too much about money”, down from 45.1% in 2010 and significantly below 2009 (55.9%).

A small rise in support for switching to sustainable technologies if there’s a cost for doing this – from 65.6% in 2010 to 69.9%, still below the 78.3% result in 2009.
A rise in the number of people who think putting a price on carbon is a fair way of reducing emissions. Asked to rate their views on a scale of 0 (totally unfair) to 10 (totally fair), 38.2% gave a rating between 6 and 10, up from 32.3% last year and slightly above the 37.9% result in 2009.

Only 40.3% agree with the statement “I feel fully informed about the ETS”. However, this is a rise on last year’s 33.9% and the 29.4% result in 2009.

Asked to indicate which statement they most identify with, 38.4% of people think the world is experiencing serious climate change requiring urgent action, 22.4% believe there is evidence the world is experiencing climate change and that humans are the cause, 23.9% believe the world is experiencing climate change, but there is no clear proof that humans are the cause, while 15.4% say the world is simply experiencing normal changes.

“Sitting in behind these responses is the fact that progress on international negotiations has slowed. Progress towards international carbon pricing and emissions trading has slowed down among the countries we do most of our business with – China, the US, Japan. Australia plans to bring in carbon pricing next year, but its approach is very different to New Zealand’s,” said David Venables.

“On a positive note there is a continuing increase in the number of people who feel they are fully informed about the ETS. At four out of 10, this figure is still low, but at least it’s headed in a positive direction.”

The poll of 500 New Zealanders aged 18 and over, conducted in July by UMR Research, has a margin of error of 4.4% at a 95% confidence level.


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