Monday 5 November 2007

Most Would Pay Higher Energy Bills to Address
Climate Change Says Global Poll

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Most people say they are ready to make personal sacrifices – including paying more for their energy – to help address climate change, according to a new BBC World Service poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

Substantial majorities in all countries polled (83% overall) say it will be necessary for people in their country to “make changes in their lifestyle and behaviour” to reduce the emission of climate-changing gases.

In 14 of the 21 countries, a majority (61% on average overall) say it will be necessary to increase energy costs to encourage conservation and reduce carbon emissions.

Support for increased energy taxes is conditional. Asked if they would support higher taxes on types of energy - such as oil and coal - that cause most carbon emissions, only half (50% overall) approve. But this rises to three out of four (77% overall) if the tax raised was specifically devoted to promoting energy efficiency or developing cleaner fuels. Such a tax receives majority support in all 21 countries polled.

These results hold true in the US and China, the two countries that emit the largest amounts of carbon dioxide. Urban Chinese are among those most ready to change their lifestyle (86%), to see the cost of energy go up (83%) and to pay higher taxes on coal and oil (85%).

Seventy-nine percent of Americans agree that lifestyles in the United States will have to change and 65% say that energy costs will have to rise. Americans are initially divided about paying a higher tax on coal and oil (46% support), but this rises to 74% if the revenues are used to promote efficiency or develop new fuels.

The poll is being published to coincide with BBC World Service’s week of programming on climate change, Taking the Temperature during which the impact of the events and negotiations on climate change throughout the year will be assessed.

The survey was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.  GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between 29 May and 26 July, 2007. 

Director of PIPA, Steven Kull said, “People around the world recognize that climate change requires that people change their behaviour. And that to provide incentives for those changes there will need to be an increase in the cost of energy that contributes to climate change.” 

GlobeScan President, Doug Miller said, “While few citizens welcome higher taxes, the poll suggests that national leaders could succeed in introducing a carbon tax on energy. The key requirement is that their citizens trust that the resulting tax revenues will be invested in addressing climate change by increasing energy efficiency and developing cleaner fuels.”

Participating Countries

Note: In Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Turkey an urban sample was used. See Methodology section for details.

Detailed Findings

Lifestyle changes
The countries with the largest percentages saying that lifestyle and behavioural changes will be definitely necessary are Spain (68%), Mexico (64%), Canada (63%), Italy (62%), and China (59%).  The countries with the largest numbers saying that such changes will not be necessary are Nigeria (33%), Egypt (29%), Kenya (25%), the United States (19%) and India (18%).

Energy Costs
Large majorities in most of Europe and the Americas believe that it will also be necessary to “increase the cost of the types of energy that most cause climate change, such as coal and oil, in order to encourage individuals and industry to use less:” Chile (79%), Great Britain (77%), Canada (72%), Germany (70%), United States (65%), Brazil (64%), Mexico (61%), France (61%) and Spain (53%).  Australia is the developed country where the largest majority (81%) believe energy costs will need to increase.

There are two exceptions, with 50 percent of Italians and 50 percent of Russians leaning toward the belief that such increases will not be necessary.  Italy’s energy costs are already among the highest in Europe in part because it bans nuclear technology.  Although Russia is a major oil producer, its consumers have faced rising energy prices in recent years.

Attitudes to increased energy costs in Asia range from the overwhelming 83 percent majorities in China and Indonesia to the divided views in South Korea and the Philippines. Indians lean toward the view that higher costs are needed: half (50%) say that increasing the cost of energy will be necessary and only 27 percent say it will not, though large numbers (23%) do not answer. 

The only country with a majority (52%) against increasing the cost of fuels that produce greenhouse gases is Nigeria.

Tax Increases
Reactions are mixed on whether people would favour the raising of taxes on energy sources that contribute to climate change. Overall, only 50 percent are in favour and 44 percent opposed.

Urban Chinese have the largest majority (85%) who would support raising taxes on the fuels that contribute most to climate change.

The proportion of Chinese favouring higher energy taxes is 24 points greater than the next largest majorities in Australia and Chile (61% in both). This is followed by Germans (59%), Canadians (57%), Indonesians (56%), Britons (54%) and Nigerians (52%). Publics lean toward this measure in Mexico (50% to 46%) and are divided in Kenya (50% to 48%), Spain (49% to 47%), France (47% to 48%), Turkey (42% to 43%) and India (38% to 36%).

Majorities in Italy (62%), South Korea (59%), the Philippines (58%), Brazil (55%), Egypt (52%) and the United States (51%) are initially opposed to higher energy taxes.

The poll then tested the relative influence of two different design options for an energy tax by asking those who initially did not support a higher energy tax whether they would favour this tax under one of two different conditions: if the revenues were “devoted only to increasing energy efficiency and developing energy sources that do not produce climate change” and if at “the same time as your other taxes were reduced by the same amount, keeping your total taxes at the current level.”

Combined with those who initially supported an energy tax, the percentage who change their position under each condition produces a large majority in every country ready to favour an energy tax. 

In the six countries where majorities initially oppose higher fuel taxes, adding the condition of devoting revenues to improving efficiency and seeking out new sources produces large majorities in favour: Italy (78%), South Korea (70%), the Philippines (69%), Brazil (65%), Egypt (73%) and the United States (74%).

The six countries that were somewhat divided about tax increases also become supporters if revenues would be earmarked for energy programs:  Mexico (74%), Kenya (81%), Spain (86%), France (79%), Turkey (75%) and India (60%).

The same holds true, but to a slightly lesser extent, if those initially against higher energy taxes are told their other taxes would be reduced so their total tax bill would remain the same.  Countries that were opposed to tax increases then become supporters:  Italy (69%), South Korea (70%), the Philippines (66%), Brazil (65%), Egypt (82%) and the United States (64%).  And countries that were divided also show large majorities in favour: Mexico (64%), Kenya (78%), Spain (73%), France (79%), Turkey (78%) and India (66%).

Again, China stands out as exceptionally willing to consider higher taxes as a means of combating climate change.  When those against or uncertain about higher taxes are asked whether they would support them to increase efficiency or develop new sources, the total in favour of tax increases becomes a nearly unanimous 97 percent.  And when asked whether they would favour such increases if their total tax bill remained the same, 93 percent say yes.

A total of 22,182 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States were interviewed face to face or by telephone between May 29 and July 26, 2007.  Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country.  In eight of the 21 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas.  The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 3.5 percent.


For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:

Doug Miller, President
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7253 1425
(Mobile: +44 78 999 77 000) 

Steven Kull, Director
Program on International Policy Attitudes, Washington
+1 202 232 7500
(Mobile: +1 301 254 7500)

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research consultancy with offices in Toronto, London, and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 50+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. PIPA undertakes research on attitudes in publics around the world on a variety of international issues and publishes the website/webzine

The BBC is an international radio and online broadcaster delivering programmes and services in 33 languages. The radio output reaches 183 million weekly listeners around the globe, on platforms that include SW, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels. It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones. Its international online sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to feedback directly and discuss world events. They receive over 704 million page impressions monthly, attracting 38.5 million unique users per month.

Listen to BBC World Service on, on the BBC’s national DAB digital radio multiplex, Freeview channel 710, Sky Channel 0115, Hot bird 8 satellite and Virgin Media.

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