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Survey shows public support for ETS transition measures that support businesses and the rural sector

15 November 2010

Most New Zealanders recognize the need for businesses and the rural sector to receive support through carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme, a survey has found.

The survey, conducted by UMR Research on behalf of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, shows there is less opposition to supporting business and the rural sector than there was last year. The survey also reveals the public holds contradictory views about climate change – wanting action while at the same time being worried about the costs.

The Coalition has just released the remainder of the results from this year’s climate change survey. Last month, it released results showing a drop in the number of people who saw climate change as a priority compared with other issues and an increasing concern about the risk that dealing with climate change poses to jobs and people’s standard of living.

“The latest results suggest people are increasingly open to helping protect the competitiveness of businesses and farmers as we move ahead with carbon pricing. Last year, 51.8% of respondents opposed providing carbon credits to business; this opposition has now dropped to 38%. In terms of the rural sector, it’s a similar story, with those opposing assistance to the sector falling from 40.2% to 32.5%,” says the Coalition’s Executive Director, David Venables.

“This support for business also extends to the period beyond 2012, which is when current ETS support measures, such as the fixed carbon price and half-price obligation, are due to end and carbon credit allocation starts to be phased out. Asked what they thought the Government should do, 48.1% chose the option of continuing assistance for companies. The qualification is that companies must have a strong case for support. Only 24% supported phasing out financial assistance to companies. Fully a quarter of respondents thought the ETS should just be scrapped.

“We also asked people whether they thought farming[1] should be included in the ETS. The results show an even split among New Zealanders. Nearly 47% of people think farming should not be in the ETS, while just over 45% think it should be included. This would suggest there would be support for the Government should it decide to delay the entry of agricultural emissions on the basis of lack of international action on carbon pricing. Having said that, the survey results also suggest many people want the ETS to continue on track and for New Zealand to take action on climate change without necessarily waiting for other countries. Support for unilateral action is dropping, but it is still there.

“There seems to be a disconnect here. As reported previously, people told us they do not want to pay much to deal with climate change and want jobs and their standard of living protected. This seemed to dominate most people’s thinking. Given this confused situation – the public’s desire to act, but also to avoid excessive costs – the Government should continue to take a cautious approach to demands for tougher action on climate change.”

The Coalition’s survey found:

  • When asked about introducing more sectors to the ETS, 25.6% in fact said the scheme should be ended, while 18.1% wanted no more sectors included, and 42.8% wanted more sectors added.
  • Asked about the ETS in the context of action by our main trading competitors = a total of 31.4% wanted to wait until there are schemes in Australia (16.4%), the US (6%), or China (9%), while 43.8% want New Zealand to go ahead without waiting for other countries.
  • A drop in active support for New Zealand moving to reduce emissions regardless of other countries’ actions (down to 63.1%, from 76% in 2009).
  • A drop in opposition to the statement “We should only do as much to reduce emissions as other nations are prepared to do”(39%, down from 50.7% in 2009).
  • People continue to oppose restricting New Zealand trade to countries involved in emissions trading (56.7% opposed).
  • Little change in people’s views on whether or not New Zealand’s 2020 emission reduction target is too tough or not tough enough – 58.6% thought it was demanding enough (59.4% in 2009), while 30% thought it was not demanding enough (25.4% in 2009).
  • There is a split view on what companies should do under the ETS regime regarding new investments. Most people think they should still expand their New Zealand investments (55.7%), but 28.4% believe they should make their new investments overseas.

“These results show there is a lot of division in the community about the ETS and what New Zealand should do about climate change. There is in these results a mandate for the Government continuing with the ETS and engaging with other countries to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is also a public desire to protect the competitiveness of New Zealand businesses and the rural sector. There is a lot of opposition to imposing a carbon price on farming, which is something that Europe, and our main trading partner Australia, have so far declined to do,” Mr Venables says.

The telephone poll of 503 New Zealanders aged 18 and over was conducted in late July and early August and has a margin of error of 4.4% at a 95% confidence level.

For further information, contact:

David Venables, Executive Director, 04 473 0600 or 027 848 2368


[Download as Word file (652k) or PDF (284k); download the full survey results here]

Graphs of results

Should the Government give carbon credits to the business sector?

Should the Government give carbon credits to the rural sector?

What would you recommend the Government do with the ETS regarding financial assistance for business?

How strongly do you agree that farming should be in the ETS?

What should the Government do with the ETS regarding entry of sectors?

What would you recommend the Government do with the ETS regarding the actions of our major trade competitors?

New Zealand should take steps to reduce carbon emissions regardless of what other countries decide to do

We should only do as much to reduce emissions as other nations are prepared to do

We should trade only with countries that take part in the global ETS

Questions about New Zealand’s emission reduction target range for 2020, based on the middle of the range, i.e. a 15% cut to 1990 emission levels.

The target they are setting is not demanding enough

The target they are setting is too steep and unrealistic

What should local employers do?

Shut up shop and move to nations that don’t take part in emissions trading

Take steps to reduce emissions

Ask the Government for some of the surplus carbon credits to help them remain competitive while trying to reduce emissions

Keep their current investments in New Zealand but make any new investments overseas (new option in 2010)


[1] Note that while the agricultural gases methane (from stock) and nitrous oxide (from fertiliser) are not being brought fully into the ETS until 2015, nevertheless farmers, like all consumers, are already affected by the ETS through the increased costs of power and fuel that came in after 1 July this year.

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