Majority of People Surveyed Want Action on Emissions Reduction and Clean Energy

  • Published on December 2nd, 2008

Citizens around the world look to their governments for leadership on climate and energy

As negotiations get under way in earnest at the two-week United Nations Climate Conference in Poland, recent surveys suggest a majority of people in both developing and industrialized nations seek substantive action on global warming and want their governments to agree on carbon emission targets.

[social_buttons]The survey was commissioned by the HSBC Climate Partnership, a partnership of business and environmental groups. 12,000 people were surveyed in 12 countries and territories including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A consensus to act

Many people rank climate as a greater concern than the economyResults from the survey show that, even though the global economy follows the now-official U.S. recession, many people (40%) rank global climate ahead of the global economy as the bigger concern.

When it comes to scores of delegates converging to endlessly haggle over what to do about global warming, by far the majority of people just want action from their own government. 55% of respondents feel their governments should invest more in renewable energy while only 27% are interested in them participating in international climate change negotiations (I humbly suggest this could be due to how much progress past negotiations have brought to bear on the problem. With the United States ready to reassert itself as a leader in the international community, this will hopefully lead to real progress in such negotiations, and public sentiment may change).

This doesn’t mean people don’t want their governments to ignore the rest of the world when it comes to carbon emissions. A majority of those surveyed want their country to pull their weight in achieving emissions reductions. 72% of the Americans in the survey said the United States should reduce emissions by at least as much as other countries. In rapidly developing China, 62% think the country should reduce carbon emissions on par with other nations while only 4% believe their emissions should be allowed to increase.

Support for clean energy

In another research project by the University of Maryland in collaboration with, a poll of nearly 21,000 people in 21 nations found strong support for governments requiring utilities to use more alternative sources of energy, including wind, solar, and biomass, and to further require businesses to use energy more efficiently. Even if it costs more at the outset, most people, 77% on average throughout the 21 nations, believe it is necessary and will be less costly in the long run than a continued and growing reliance on fossil fuel.

“It is quite remarkable that there is such unanimity around the world that government should address the problem of energy by emphasizing alternative energy sources and greater efficiency,” comments Steven Kull, director of “Equally remarkable is how little the governments around the world are following the public’s lead.”

The question to ask, in light of a new administration in the U.S. and the ongoing negotiations in Poland, is if the world’s governments are now prepared to follow our lead.

Image Credits:

Sources and further reading:
Worldwatch Institute

About the Author

is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs, including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, and Planetsave.   Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.