December 16 2009

Climate change professionals expect Europe to demonstrate leadership at UN summit

Climate science endorsed as a basis for action

Toronto – A global survey has found that professionals involved in making decisions that have implications for climate change are calling for Europe to take a leadership stance in negotiations in Copenhagen, where leaders from around the world are meeting for a major UN climate conference (COP15).

When asked what role they expect six different countries or groups of countries will play at the Copenhagen climate talks, 80 percent say they most expect Europe to play a leadership role in setting ambitious targets at the conference. China, Brazil, India, Russia, and the US are expected to play a more moderate role at the conference, with about half or more of respondents indicating that they expect these countries to support only gradual action to address climate change. Few climate change professionals expect these countries to lead, and between two and four out of ten predict that they will not agree to an agreement that limits emissions.

These and other findings from a worldwide survey of almost 800 professionals involved in decisions that have an impact on climate change were released today by GlobeScan. Experts surveyed work in all public, private, and voluntary sectors in more than 100 countries.

The Agreement: When asked which one of seven possible outcomes of the Copenhagen meeting they would prefer, the vast majority of climate change professionals (73%) surveyed call for a comprehensive and ambitious global agreement with cooperation from the USA and China. However, when given the same seven possible outcomes of the United Nations meeting, only 8 percent predict that such a deal will be reached. Instead, most respondents (57%) expect that the meeting will produce a political agreement in principle, with negotiations continuing beyond the conference and into 2010.

Obstacles: Experts doubt that negotiators will agree on how much major developing countries such as China and India will limit the growth of their emissions in the short- and long-term (67% believe agreement on this item is unlikely). Agreement on the management of the money committed to helping developing countries is also predicted by experts to be unlikely. Only 16 percent indicate that they expect an agreement on this.

Performance: Forty-six percent of experts rate the EU’s performance on addressing climate change over the past year positively. Far fewer rate the Chinese, American, or Indian government’s performance positively. Still, experts surveyed are more than twice as likely to say that the Chinese government has performed well than they are to say that the Indian government has over the last year (14% vs 6%). The US government ranks below the Chinese government, with only 10 percent agreeing that it has performed well over the past year.

Science: Additionally, the survey results show that 82 percent of experts polled disagree that the science behind human-caused climate change is not strong enough to justify major action to combat climate change. Agreement that investing in climate mitigation strategies now will be less expensive than adapting to the effects of climate change in the future is even stronger, with 90 percent agreeing.

Additional Findings

About this survey: Conducted during November 2009, just prior to the Copenhagen talks, this is the third wave of research that GlobeScan has conducted since 2007 with this panel of professionals. The 770 experts surveyed in November 2009 are based in NGOs, research organizations, multiple private sector enterprises, and governments in 104 countries. Respondents were drawn from the combined networks of numerous supporting organizations over the past three years, including the COMplus Alliance of Sustainable Development Communicators, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Centre, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainable Development, the World Energy Council (WEC), and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.