Climate change survey finds Australians want action, even at a cost

Climate change has returned as a major concern for most Australians. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Climate change has returned as a major concern for most Australians. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Almost two-thirds of Australians support a ban on new coal mines and reduction in coal exports, according to a new survey which shows a growing proportion of the population want immediate climate action even if it comes at a "significant cost".

The Lowy Institute's annual climate poll found that almost 65 per cent of people backed an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax - seven years after the latter was controversially killed off by the Abbott Coalition government.

The poll showed that after a small dip in 2020, a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change has returned as an issue of major and pressing concern for most Australians.

Of the near 3300 people polled throughout April, 60 per cent agreed that "climate change was a serious and pressing problem and we should be taking steps now even if this involves significant costs".

A higher percentage has been recorded just twice in the past 15 years - 68 per cent in 2006 and 61 per cent in 2019.

The clear majority believes the benefits of climate action will outweigh the costs, expressing strong support for policies shunned by either or both the major parties.

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Six in 10 respondents opposed the opening of new coal mines, while only 30 per cent believed the government should subsidise the construction of additional coal-fired power stations.

More than 60 per cent want overseas coal exports reduced, in an apparent shift in public sentiment from five years ago.

In another sign of a shift in the public's mood, 64 per cent of respondents supported the introduction of an emissions trading scheme or price on carbon.

Just 40 per cent backed the idea when it was put to respondents, albeit in different terms, in the think tank's 2016 survey.

Close to 80 per cent of respondents wanted a firm commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Labor has committed to the target, while the Coalition is sticking by its goal of reaching net zero "as soon as possible, preferably by 2050".

More than half of respondents believed Australia was doing too little to tackle climate change, with about a third comfortable the country was doing the right amount.

Natasha Kassam, the Lowy Institute's public opinion and foreign policy program director, said the survey results showed that climate action was a growing concern for Australians.

"What we can see now is that Australians are calling for more action on climate and are willing to consider policy measures that haven't been on the table for a number of years [such as a carbon tax]," she said.

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This story Climate action urged even if it comes at 'significant cost' first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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