An international survey released in September shines an interesting light on New Zealanders’ attitudes and actions on climate change.
The IPSOS Global Advisor Survey, which was carried out in June, surveyed 21,011 adults between the ages of 18 and 74 in thirty countries around the world, including New Zealand. It focused on attitudes and behaviours towards climate change and found that New Zealanders are doing less overall than our international counterparts.
Research undertaken by EECA, the organisation that backs Gen Less, shows similar trends. EECA's quarterly consumer monitors1 show that the majority of New Zealanders believe in climate change but that trend line hasn't improved much over the past 18 months. And despite multiple climate-related events and disasters in recent times, our attitudes and actions aren’t becoming any more urgent.
1 EECA surveys 750 New Zealanders each quarter across a range of ages, genders, and regions.
We don't feel the need to act now
While a majority of New Zealanders believe the government, businesses and individuals should act now on climate change, it appears we feel less urgency than people in other countries.
In answer to whether the government will be failing its people if it doesn’t act now on climate change, 57% of New Zealanders agreed, compared to the global average of 65%.
When asked if businesses would be failing people if they didn’t act now on climate change, 68% of people globally agreed, while 60% of New Zealanders agreed.
When it comes to individuals, globally 72% agreed that if individuals don’t act now to combat climate change, they will be failing future generations. 62% of New Zealanders agreed – in Australia, it was 69%.
We know what the government is doing
Although we feel less urgency around the government acting now, New Zealanders are more aware of the government’s plans to tackle climate change than people in other countries.
We had the 7th highest positive rating, with 37% agreeing that the government has a clear plan in place for how government, businesses and people are going to work together to tackle climate change. The global average was just 31%.
We prioritise low-impact actions
Globally, 69% of people believe they understand what they need to do to fight climate change. In New Zealand, 66% of people share that belief.
But actions are not all equal when it comes to climate change, with some making a much greater difference than others. Those higher impact actions seem to be at the bottom of our list.
The survey shows that we’re overestimating the impact of actions like avoiding excess packaging and underestimating actions that have more impact, like eating less meat or flying less.
New Zealand is bottom of the list when it comes to avoiding flying over the coming year. Only 31% of us are likely to avoid flying or swap some flights with train or bus journeys, compared to 45% globally.
We’re also less likely to change our daily travel to walking, cycling or public transport instead of driving a car or motorbike. Only 36% of New Zealanders are likely to do this, compared to a global average of 48%.
Eating less meat is also on the list, with 35% of New Zealanders likely to eat less meat or replace meat with an alternative compared to 43% globally.
What's behind our action and inaction?
Most New Zealanders believe in climate change and want to do something about it. So what’s the sticking point? Karin Glucina, Partner at insights agency TRA, says human brains are not good at assessing long term risks.
"Our flight or fight response has been designed to kick-in with immediate threats, and we don't often see climate change in this way. We also value current rewards more than future reward which can make acting on climate change difficult.
"We're also wired to think about the tangible, which can be why we worry more about recycling than the emissions created by our transport use – even though it’s the transport use that has the most impact on climate change."
One way we could get around this is by making small changes to what we typically do. We know that habits are important – so even creating a habit of walking once a week on a Tuesday, rather than driving, is much better for us and for climate change, than worrying about climate change and doing nothing.
Work out your impact
If you're not sure about the impact of your actions, a great place to start is by calculating your carbon footprint. It shows you the different impacts of your activities, like diet, power use, or travel. FutureFit's carbon footprint calculator(external link) lets you choose actions you want to take and track your progress over time.
You can also explore the climate-positive actions you can take in your personal life, or your business.