July 30, 2007

Developing countries revealed as most concerned about need to deal with climate change

An international survey of public attitudes towards climate change has found that people in developing economies exhibit the greatest concern, commitment and optimism towards the problem of climate change, while those in developed economies indicated the greatest indifference, reluctance and fatalism.

HSBC's first Climate Confidence Index polled 9,000 people in nine countries across four continents. Overall, the survey revealed citizens of China, India, Mexico and Brazil to be the most concerned about climate change, with 60% of respondents in these nations registering a high level of concern. At the same time, Chinese and Indian respondents were found to be the most optimistic that the problem of climate change can be overcome.

By contrast, only 22% of U.K. and 25% of German residents reported a high level of concern, and they, along with respondents in France, were the least optimistic that a solution will be found.

People's assessment of their commitment to tackling climate change also emerged as higher in developing economies. Close to 47% per cent of people indicated high levels of personal commitment to combating climate change in India and Brazil, compared with only 19% in the U.K.

So what is the point of gauging international public attitudes toward climate change?

Jon Williams, head of HSBC's sustainable development group, explained that, "Over time we believe it will enable us to better understand the actions individuals are prepared to take in reducing their carbon footprint and how we can work with governments and the business community to provide financial solutions to support them."

The survey exposed another trend, possibly even more significant, namely the emergence of so-called "green rejection" in the developed world. This attitude embodies a rejection that climate change is a problem, of solutions to it and of the institutions proposing them.

Green rejection was found to be strongest in the U.K. and Germany, where respondents were among the least engaged and optimistic about the challenge. In the U.S., however, respondents were by far the most confident and optimistic of all the developed economies surveyed.

With regard to who should be responsible for tackling the problem, a clear majority (68%) of all respondents across countries and age groups believe that governments should be playing the leading role, compared with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), companies and individuals. Only 33% felt that governments are presently fulfilling this role.

The HSBC says its Climate Confidence Index marks one of the biggest research projects of its kind ever undertaken. The Internet-based survey covered nine countries: Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. Respondents' answers were analyzed and converted into an index indicating the level of concern. More information is available on the HSBC Web site, www.hsbc.com.

HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services companies. HSBC Bank Canada, based in Vancouver, is the largest international bank in Canada and the country's seventh-largest bank, with more than 160 offices across the country. With headquarters in Vancouver, it has over 160 offices across Canada.

In keeping with its global orientation, the firm's comprehensive climate change strategy includes initiatives such as: the Global Environmental Efficiency Program, a $90-million (U.S.) commitment to reduce its own direct environmental impacts; a Carbon Finance Strategy designed to help clients respond to the challenges and opportunities of creating a low-carbon economy; and the HSBC Climate Partnership, a $100-million program involving four of the world's most respected environmental groups and the bank's 315,000 employees collaborating in efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change worldwide. As well, HSBC recently appointed Sir Nicholas Stern, author of last fall's landmark report on the economic impacts of climate change, as its special advisor on economic development and climate change.

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