China lags global zeal in curbing climate change – poll

Survey gives snapshot of global variations in public attitudes towards tackling global warming

Up to 400,000 actiists march in New York in September 2014 (Flickr/ Stephen Melkisethian)

Up to 400,000 activists march in New York in September 2014 (Flickr/ Stephen Melkisethian)

By Alex Pashley

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the world think climate envoys must do “whatever it takes” to strike a robust global warming pact in Paris this year.

In China the figure falls to 30%.

So says a comprehensive survey of 10,000 in 75 countries – hinting at a chasm between climate views in the top emitter and the rest of the world.

“There’s a strong commitment among citizens worldwide to take strong action. That’s the general takeaway,” Bjorn Bedsted, a coordinator at World Wide Views told RTCC.



But it is brinkmanship by steely negotiators, not the public mood, that makes an agreement.

Globally, 68% backed a phase-out of fossil fuel emissions this century. In China it was 37%.

The “largest ever citizen consultation” gathered a cross-section of society on Saturday, and gave them information on current climate science from which to form their views.

Bedsted, head of the Danish Board of Technology, said the information was “balanced” and gave “the facts about climate change and the negotiations but also reflects the different views and stakeholders”.

As a share of global population, the sample is tiny. And the subsets from each country are too small to draw firm and detailed conclusions. All the same, the rare snapshot of public opinion from China diverges too far from the global average to be easily dismissed.

china 2



Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chinese participants were more likely than the rest of the world to think the burden of carbon cuts should fall on historical emitters, rather than current or future emitters like their own country.

Globally, 39% say cuts should be based on current or anticipated emissions, 32% on current or future economic capabilities, and 21% on historical emissions.

In China 33% favoured historical emissions.

It’s a salient issue for negotiators crafting a global pact to be durable for decades, as emerging economies like China and India overtake traditional polluters like Europe and the US.

There was widespread agreement countries in the Paris deal should agree to update their climate action commitments every five years, with 92% in favour worldwide.

World Wide Views conducted the study on Saturday in league with the French National Commission of Public Debate, and was initiated by the UN’s climate change organisation.


Read more on: Blog | China