Climate change: A survey suggests support for bold ideas from a commission

By focusing too much on individual performance, do we risk shifting the blame for those larger pollutants? Where does the male have to stop when it comes to making sure we hit Climate Change reduction targets? Video / NZ Herald

Most kiwis generally support the bold recommendations of the Climate Change Commission to put New Zealand back on track emissions targets, new survey data suggests.

Last year, researchers at Massey University surveyed Kiwis to find that seven out of 10 supported a recovery of Covid-19, in line with the country’s climate change goals.

In a subsequent survey of nearly 1100 people during February and March, they also found strong support for a range of carbon reduction resources that the commission proposed in its project council.

That report, published in late January, warned that New Zealand is on track to fall short of hitting targets under current policies and recommended a range of urgent action.

They included reducing gross numbers by about 15 percent by 2030, performing gasoline car imports by 2032 and planting 25,000 ha of native forest annually by 2030, until at least the middle of the century.

Overall, the recommendations – still to be finalized, with the commission still working on 15,500 proposals – would see greenhouse gas emissions fall 36% below 2018 to 2035 levels.

Massey communications spokesman Dr Jagadish Thaker said understanding public support is key to any policy being successfully implemented or implemented – and there seemed to be much of it for the commission’s suggested attack plan.

About 53 percent of the respondents strongly supported rapidly growing the planting of new native forests, while an additional 39 percent “somewhat” supported it.

Nearly 90 percent either strongly or somewhat supported an urgent shift to wind and solar energy for electricity production, and 83 percent behind helped poor households move to clean energy.

When it comes to introducing new policies to accelerate the use of walking, cycling and public transport, 44% were “somewhat” supported and 36% “strongly” supported the idea.

Similarly spread answers to a question about growing electric car numbers on our roads – from two percent of our current fleet to 50 percent by 2027 – more people “somewhat” supported rapid change (43 percent) than strongly did (30 percent).

About three-quarters of respondents maintained strong or moderate support to stop coal-fired power generation, even if that meant short-term job losses, and about 67 percent agreed to some degree that there should be no natural gas connections to homes after 2025.

“Another interesting finding of the study is that although there is strong public support for climate change policies in electricity generation, the sector only accounted for 5% of gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2019,” Thaker said.

“By comparison, while agricultural emissions contributed to about half of the emissions in 2019, public support for policy change is not as strong, although more than half of the public supports change.”

Source / Massey University
Source / Massey University

About 60 percent of people either strongly or somewhat supported that 2000 ha of dairy land should be changed to horticulture annually after 2025 – while a quarter were somewhat opposed to that option and 15 percent strongly did.

Similarly, one-quarter and 15 percent somewhat and strongly opposed respectively banning or reducing gasoline car imports by 2030 – but 37 percent somewhat agreed and 23 percent were very favorable.

The largest amount of opposition was found in reducing gross numbers by 15 percent by 2030: 19 percent strongly opposed this, and 27 percent strongly did.

At the same time 34 percent supported moderate support and 20 percent strongly supported the proposal.

Finally, Thaker said the findings showed that the majority of the public agreed with the opinion of Dr Rod Carr, commission chairman, that the project recommendations were “ambitious but realistic”.

“Usually in surveys we find that the more specific the issue of policies, the less is the public support,” he said.

“However, I was amazed that even when we ask for specific policy resources – as in this case of translating the commission’s advice – we find strong public support for policies targeting several sectors.”

But he thought there was more work to be done.

“We need more engagement with our communities, informing them not only about the effects of climate change due to stagnation, but also the ‘here and now’ benefits of climate action.”

The survey, conducted by Qualtrics between February 15 and March 6, and investigating 1083 adults, used an online survey.

The data were measured to match New Zealand calculations and had a margin of error of more or less three per cent.

The commission will deliver its final package of advice to the Government by 31 May, and will publish it publicly before the end of June.

“We are currently reviewing each proposal as we prepare our final advice and, although we cannot go into too much detail about the content of the proposals now, there is much support to act now to ensure a prosperous climate. A resilient future with few emissions for Aotearoa.” said the commission’s prime minister, Jo Hendy.

“We are very grateful to all the people and organizations who submitted proposals, and that contribution will reflect our final advice.”