New Zealand on the right track to battle climate change, but COVID-19 stands in the way
The third annual IAG New Zealand Ipsos Climate Change opinion poll has found that while New Zealanders are increasingly positive that the government and the country are on the right track to battle climate change, they are concerned the COVID-19 crisis will get in the way.
The survey of 1,000 people, commissioned by IAG and conducted by Ipsos Ltd between 18 to 24 June 2020, found that New Zealanders think the Government is doing a better job in responding to climate change and the country is heading in the right direction, but that the response is not moving fast enough.
The poll also found New Zealanders are more concerned about climate change because of COVID-19 and think it should be part of the economic recovery plan but are concerned that COVID-19 will delay the response to climate change.
IAG New Zealand sustainability and climate change spokesperson, Bryce Davies says New Zealand can’t afford to lose its focus on climate change.
“Reducing and adapting to the impacts of climate change must be part of our economic response to COVID-19.”
Climate change continues to be an important issue for New Zealanders, with the majority of those interviewed thinking they will be personally impacted and, as a consequence, will be taking steps to reduce those impacts. Interestingly, 31percent are more concerned by the impact of climate change on them, than about their impact on climate change.
Mr Davies says IAG’s third annual survey focussed more closely on New Zealanders’ readiness to adapt and their expectations of government, business and other New Zealanders in helping them to do so.
“No matter what steps are taken to reduce climate change, we cannot escape its impacts and we all have to start thinking about how we are going to adapt to them.
“The poll highlights that to successfully adapt the country needs better information on impacts and solutions, to find solutions to avoid the worst of those impacts, and to decide how we pay for it all,” says Mr Davies.
The survey shows that New Zealanders understand the physical impacts that climate change will bring, with recent experiences of drought and water shortages adding to their understanding.
New Zealanders want more information on what they can do to reduce the impacts that climate change will have on them, and feel that both central and local government have a role in providing this.
People also understand that climate change will impact where people live, with many expecting they will be personally affected and would like to see local councils use their zoning and consenting powers to reduce the impact of climate change. New Zealanders also want central and local government to spend more reducing the impact of climate change, but are less willing to pay for this through higher taxes and rates.
People have conflicting views about the pricing of climate risk, with some wanting banks and insurers to reflect it in their products, and others wanting cross-subsidisation and government intervention.
“People are uncertain about the role that insurers and banks should play,” says Mr Davies.
In the year since the last poll, South Canterbury bore the brunt of the second most costly weather event of the 21st century, the Timaru hailstorm, which cost more than $130 million in insurance claims. IAG alone dealt with more than 12,500 claims as a result of the storm.
New Zealand skies turned red and brown during the summer due to the Black Summer Australian bushfires which burnt through an estimated 186,000 square kilometres, destroying 5,900 buildings, killing a billion animals and 34 people, and costing an estimated five billion New Zealand dollars.
Since the poll, Northland has suffered a 1 in 500-year rainstorm which has resulted in more than 1,000 claims so far for IAG alone. The recovery effort is expected to last months.
“As New Zealand’s leading insurer, IAG is committed to not only taking climate action to reduce emissions, but also to working with government, our industry and our customers to fill the knowledge gaps that exist – and importantly, help New Zealand take the necessary steps to adapt to a changing climate,” says Mr Davies.