Canadians want federal leadership on climate change: new Canada 2020 poll

Strong support among Canadians for carbon pricing, strategic pipelines and Canada’s participation in international climate agreements says a new poll by Canada 2020 and University of Montreal

by Alex Paterson. Posted November 6, 2013


Download the results and view interactive maps at canada2020.ca/climatepoll

November 6, 2013 (Ottawa) – The Canada 2020/Université de Montréal National Survey of Canadian Opinions on Climate Change, released today, reveals that 84% of Canadians believe the federal government should take the lead on combating climate change; 76% of Canadians believe Canada should sign an international climate agreement even if it means doing so before China and the U.S.; and 71% of Canadians believe that climate change should be a top priority for the Conservative federal government – while only 16% of Canadians believe it actually is a priority for the government.

The nationally representative telephone survey interviewed 1502 adult Canadians during the month of October, yielding a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, in 19 out of 20 samples. The study, run concurrently with researchers in the U.S. highlights a stark contrast between the leadership Canadians want on climate change, and the kind of leadership they are getting. And with the United Nations Climate Change Conference happening in Warsaw, Poland from November 11– 22, the survey offers a compelling look into what Canadians think should be done about climate change and, most importantly, who they think should take the lead.

“Canada 2020’s results confirm what many Canadians already know: there is a leadership vacuum when it comes to fighting climate change in this country,” said Diana Carney, Associate with Canada 2020. “From signing international agreements to the uptake of renewable energy, all across the board Canadians are waiting for the federal government to take responsibility and lead.”

Added Tim Barber, Canada 2020’s Co-Founder: “When you dig into Canada 2020’s data, you realize how much further along Canadians are than our American neighbors; whether you’re talking about installing a carbon price, making smart use of our pipelines or paying more at the pump, Canadians don’t see a trade-off between having a healthy environment and a thriving economy.”

Major highlights from the survey include:

  • 76% of Canadians (versus 59% of Americans) are either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ concerned about global warming ;
  • 84% of Canadians ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ believe that the federal government should take primary responsibility for addressing global warming;
  • 71% of Canadians believe climate change should be a top priority for the federal government – while only 16% believe it actually is a top priority for the current government;
  • 84% of Canadians (versus 57% of Americans) either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ believe that rich countries such as Canada and the U.S. have a moral obligation to show international leadership by reducing GHG emissions;
  • 76% of Canadians (versus 56% of Americans) either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ agree that Canada should sign an international climate agreement – even if it means doing so before the U.S. or China sign one;
  • 60% of Canadians either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ support the expanded use of pipelines to transport oil and gas;
  • A majority of Canadians support putting a price on carbon, with support actually increasing when told it could increase fuel or home energy prices by a specific amount; and
  • Furthermore, in regions where carbon pricing systems are in effect, like B.C. or Quebec, support increases substantially.

“Relative to respondents in the U.S., Canadians are more convinced that climate change is occurring, more concerned about it, and more willing to pay to address the issue. Canadians are also more likely to support carbon pricing than Americans, particularly when provided with information on costs and how revenues are used. A lot of our findings challenge commonly held assumptions in Canada regarding the political feasibility of climate policy and the question of when to act,” said Erick Lachapelle, Professor at the Université de Montréal.

Canada 2020 will discuss the poll’s results and implications at a highly anticipated public event this evening, Wednesday November 6th in Ottawa. The event, The politics of climate, and the climate of politics will take place in the Château Laurier Hotel’s Laurier Room from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

The event will feature a heavy-hitter panel of environmental and political experts, including David Jacobson, Vice Chair of the BMO Financial Group and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Scott Vaughan, President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, David McLaughlin, Strategic Adviser at the University of Waterloo, Erick Lachapelle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal, Chris Borick, Professor of Political Science at Muhlenberg College in the United States, and Canada 2020’s Diana Carney.

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Editor’s notes:

1) To download the poll results, and view interactive maps, visit canada2020.ca/climatepoll

2) Our event, The politics of climate and the climate of politics can be livestreamed at 4:30 PM ET at canada2020.ca/live

About the poll:

The Canada 2020/Université de Montréal National Survey of Canadian Opinions on Climate Change was designed by Erick Lachapelle (Université de Montréal), Chris Borick (Muhlenberg College) and Barry Rabe (University of Michigan).

The survey was administered in Canada by Léger to a nationally representative sample of 1,502 Canadians (aged 18 and over). All surveys were conducted via telephone in English and French from 10 October to 20 October 2013. Calls were made using both landline and mobile phone listings. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5% in 19 out of 20 samples.