Government's climate change credentials slump Media Release

Oct 23, 2008 - 12:00am

The ALP is losing its grip on an election-winning asset, leadership on climate change, according to a recent poll commissioned for the independent Climate Institute which also shows that public concern for climate change is weathering the financial crisis.

Support for the Labor party’s management of climate change has slumped from a high of 43 per cent, on the eve of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, to 28 per cent, shows the Auspoll survey conducted the weekend before last*.

“The slump in the Government’s credentials may be driven by a belief that big polluters are not being made to do their ‘fair share’ on climate change and there’s community impatience to see strong government action following the ratification of Kyoto,” Climate Institute CEO John Connor said.

“The Government has embarked on a wide consultation process, and rightly so, but if it is to claw back public support it needs to back strong, credible carbon pollution reduction targets and a clear vision on clean energy and energy efficiency in its December White Paper.”

Twenty-eight per cent 28% of Australians think Labor is the “party better able to handle climate change” and is its lowest polling on this question since February 2007, down from 34 per cent in July this year. The Coalition has risen from 9 per cent in July to 14 per cent. Fifty-eight per cent were not sure or considered both parties the same.

Concern about climate change remains extremely high with 82 per cent concerned (16 per cent extremely concerned; 27 per cent very concerned and 39 per cent concerned).  This is a marginal drop from 89 per cent in March 2008.

Even in the midst of the market meltdown, only 22 per cent agreed with the statement “given the turmoil in financial markets government should delay action on climate change” (8 per cent strongly agree, 14 per cent agree). Sixty-eight per cent supported the statement that given the financial turmoil “it is even more important to take action on climate and create green jobs and industries”.

“Australians are understandably concerned about the economy but are still hungry for action on climate change and leadership on this issue is now up for grabs,” Mr Connor said.

“Both parties standing will be affected by their position on pollution reduction targets with almost two thirds (65 per cent) of people agreeing that a strong 2020 carbon pollution reduction target is a ‘key test’ of climate change commitment. Sixty-three per cent agree that a 25 per cent reduction target is affordable and achievable.”

More frequent droughts (92%), less water for our cities (91%), damage to agriculture (89%) and the loss of the Great Barrier Reef (86%) top the list of climate change effects of most concern to people.

“Climate change is an issue that isn’t going away and the major political parties face key choices. The small Coalition rebound is at risk if they continue to push for delays in emissions trading or remain unclear on pollution reduction targets.  If the ALP adopts ‘soft policies’ in the December White Paper it risks squandering a key political differential over the Coalition and hand a stronger asset to the Greens and other parties or independents,” Mr Connor said.

“The message for our political leaders is clear - back strong internationally and scientifically credible Australian carbon pollution reduction targets, of at least 25 per cent reduction from 1990 levels, and accelerate the growth of clean energy and energy efficiency.”

NOTE: *The AUSPOLL online national survey of 1000 people was from 10th - 13th October 2008.

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