Our team looks at past trends in Canadian attitudes toward environmental issues, to explore how opinions may be shifting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not hard to think of another major global threat we’ve been warned about many times: climate change.
- In October, the environment emerged as the top issue on the minds of Canadians for the first time since 2007, just edging out concern about the economy. (Climate will now almost certainly be supplanted by COVID-19 concerns.)
- There is slim majority support for some upfront costs associated with efforts to fight climate change. Just over half of Canadians say they would accept a cost of $100 per household.
- However, fewer than three in ten Canadians express strong concern about the implications of climate change, either for their personal finances (e.g., impact on their investments or household insurance costs) or for the broader economy in areas like pension funds and infrastructure.
Public attitudes in a post-pandemic world
Now that COVID-19 has given Canadians such a vivid example of the difference preparation can make when a crisis strikes, will public expectations about climate action shift? Will Canadians be more persuaded of the need for early investment in climate action, and demand more of governments and businesses?
The next edition of the Canadian Environmental Barometer, forthcoming in June 2020, will explore these questions. As governments and businesses work toward post-pandemic economic recovery, it will be vital to gauge plans and communications against an up-to-date understanding of public attitudes.
One overarching question hovers over nearly every dilemma leaders are facing today. Do Canadians believe the depth of the country’s current economic pain justifies setting climate concerns to one side temporarily, or do they see the near-shutdown of the economic status quo as a unique opportunity for deep, structural change? Do Canadians want a “green recovery” that tightly yokes stimulus funding to sustainable, low-carbon economic activities?
The Barometer’s next fielding, combined with long-term tracking data, will offer a valuable window onto how the current crisis is shaping Canadians’ thinking about the next big global threat.
- Sarah RobertonVP - Corporate & Public Affairs