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World first: global climate poll

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Climate change

Global views

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Results from the world's first global citizen consultation on climate change, World Wide Views on Global Warming, have shown an overwhelming concern for the future of the environment.

Held in September, the 44 meetings of everyday citizens in 38 countries gave more than 4,400 randomly selected participants the chance to express their views on the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15).

Ninety per cent of these participants thought reaching a global climate deal at the conference was a matter of urgency, and 89 per cent thought countries such as the USA, Australia and EU nations should commit to short-term emissions targets of 25 to 40 per cent or higher.

This shows a discrepancy between what the citizens want and what policy makers are prepared to deliver. In the lead up to COP15, Australia is currently proposing reductions of 14 per cent (by 2020 according to 1990 levels), the US is proposing a 2 per cent reduction, and the EU is proposing a 20-30 per cent reduction.

"[The survey] has given politicians a unique insight into the views of ordinary citizens from all corners of the world on the climate crisis," said Danish Minister of Climate Change and Energy and World Wide Views ambassador, Connie Hedegaard.

"It is a powerful signal to the politicians when citizens all over the world agree that action is urgent."

The consultation findings reflect a global consensus on six key issues: the need for strong policy, technology sharing between nations, an international climate change council, increased environmental awareness and education, improvements to climate change technology and the development of consumer incentives to encourage less carbon emissions.

Australian participants were most concerned with committing confidently at COP15 to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius through a legally binding global agreement. It seems likely that such a global accord will hinge on whether global leaders can forsake self-interest and agree to co-operate and share the economic burdens.

Of the 38 countries, China's citizens were least willing to introduce emissions cuts for fast-growing economies.

Poll results indicate wealthy countries will be looked upon to promote cultural change and global co-operation. Fifty five per cent of global participants thought the least developed countries should be excluded from emissions reduction target schemes, to allow for their economic catch-up.

Accordingly, 86 per cent of citizens called for the implementation of a global financial system to generate funds for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Such a system could potentially involve green taxes on fossil fuels. Seventy four per cent of participants said they would support a price increase on fossil fuels in developed nations.

These findings come as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong have offered AU$7 billion to assist companies likely to be affected by the Emissions Trading Scheme.

"Obviously there is some additional assistance for industry in transition," Rudd told reporters. "I refer particularly to the measures that are outlined [in the ETS] for coal, for LNG and for the electricity supply industry."