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(12/02/09) -

Britons Expect Political Compromise or No Agreement at Climate Summit

Most people want countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gases, but think delegates will not reach a deal.

Most people want countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gases, but think delegates will not reach a deal.

The majority of people in Britain hope to see the upcoming Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, lead to an international binding agreement to reduce polluting greenhouse gases, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,019 British adults, 58 per cent of respondents want delegates at the summit to draft a legally binding document that would force all signatory nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

One fifth of British respondents (19%) would prefer delegates at the summit—scheduled to start on Dec. 7 and end on Dec. 18—to draft a non-binding agreement that would allow each country to reduce emissions on a voluntary basis, and 10 per cent would like to see no agreement at all.

But as far as expectations go, only nine per cent of Britons think delegates from the 170 countries attending the meeting will present a legally binding document at the end of the summit. More people (38%) foresee leaders in Copenhagen agreeing to a political compromise allowing nations to reduce emissions voluntarily, or think there will be no pact of any kind (also 38%).

Despite the low expectations, two-thirds of Britons (67%) agree with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s decision to attend the meeting.

Dealing with an Agreement

Countries attending Copenhagen are supposed to draft a new agreement to replace the 1998 Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which is due to expire in 2012. The United Kingdom ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

If representatives at Copenhagen do draft a legally binding pact, most respondents (55%) think the British government should ratify it, whereas only 14 per cent think the country should abstain from signing it.

A large proportion of Britons (45%) would not like to see an agreement that entails industrialized nations, including the UK, giving financial assistance to developing countries to help fund their curbing of emissions. On the contrary, 39 per cent of Britons would agree with this initiative.

Urgency to Fight Climate Change

In the UK, 47 per cent of respondents think global warming (or climate change) is a fact, and is caused by human activity. A quarter of respondents say this phenomenon is indeed happening, but is rooted in natural causes; a fifth of Britons (21%) think global warming is no more than an unproven theory.

A significant number of people across the UK say fighting climate change is more urgent than fighting terrorism (27%), the global financial crisis (23%), HIV/AIDS (22%), global poverty (20%), and world hunger (20%).

An even larger proportion of respondents say combating climate change is at least just as urgent as fighting global poverty (46%), world hunger (45%), HIV/AIDS (39%), the global financial crisis (39%), and terrorism (35%).

Cap-and-Trade vs. Carbon Tax

A majority of Britons (58%) endorse a cap-and-trade system as a way to deal with climate change, while two-in-five (42%) agree with the concept of a carbon tax.

Britain Compared to Canada and the United States

In similar polls conducted in Canada and the United States by Angus Reid Public Opinion, respondents showed the same level of hope and expectations regarding the Climate Summit. In Canada, most people (58%) want a legally binding agreement to curb emissions, but few (5%) think this will really be the case. In the U.S., 44 per cent of respondents want a legally binding document, but only 11 per cent expect one.

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Andy Morris, Research Director, London
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