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Little public support for high cost result from Copenhagen climate meeting

1 December 2009

A new survey of public opinion on climate change issues released today by the Greenhouse Policy Coalition shows that while the public are generally supportive of New Zealand taking part in an international agreement to limit emissions even if it involves some cost to the country, 60% feel the announced target (15% reduction below 1990 levels) is demanding enough and 44% feel the target is too steep and unrealistic.

Catherine Beard, executive director of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition said the GPC wanted to test public opinion with the help of independent professional market researchers, using neutral questions as far as possible and framing the questions in different ways to tease out what people really thought in this policy area.

“The results are very interesting because they show a considerable amount of contradiction in people’s views on the issue of climate change policy. People generally want to do the right thing with regard to our international reputation and in the interests of reducing emissions, but support drops away once the cost gets too high, jobs are threatened or they think meeting targets will reduce their standard of living.”

The survey tested what level of cost was acceptable to respondents to take part in an international emissions scheme. While the majority was in favour at a cost of $250 per person per annum or $5.00 per week, the majority were opposed at $10.00 per week or $500 per annum.

At a cost of $1400 per person per annum (which is what the Treasury estimate a 15% emission reduction target would cost) 73% are opposed and only 22% in support of such an agreement.

When it comes to allocation of free carbon units, the ranked order of preference was for

  • A mixture of stakeholder groups rather than singling out just one. 74% agreement
  • The rural sector and lower income earners – both get 49% support
  • The business sector – to help during the transition phase: 40% support
  • Third world countries, to encourage them to join the scheme: 39% support.

There was strong public support for the allocation of carbon credits to business in the transition phase (77%) if it kept jobs in New Zealand.

When asked to rank the importance of climate change amongst a range of other issues - education, health and the cost of living were ranked the highest and climate change the second to lowest.

80% of respondents agreed that climate change was happening and it was a problem, though 53% of respondents seemed less sure there was clear proof it was caused by humans– though on balance more thought so than not when the answers to both questions on this subject were analysed together.

Catherine Beard says the survey contains a rich source of information about public attitudes to climate change policy and shows the government is more likely to get support for taking action in this area if the costs are reasonable, jobs in New Zealand are preserved and all sectors are treated fairly.


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