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Canadians – including Albertans – support quick transition from fossil fuels: survey

national climate

National climate plan meeting results Source: Abacus Data

Large majority of Canadians support 2017 federal budget funding for range of clean energy priorities

New public opinion research by Abacus data found that roughly 20 million Canadian adults (69 per cent) heard something about the recent First Ministers’ Meeting on national climate—including 9 million who heard either a lot or a fair bit about it.

Among those who were aware of the meeting, which resulted in the adoption of a new national plan to tackle climate change and spur clean energy, reactions to the outcome were broadly positive, with little evidence of anxiety.

For example:

  • People were more likely to have a positive than a negative reaction to the emissions reduction plan agreed to by the majority of the premiers, by a margin of two to one.
  • By a similar margin, people were more likely to approve than disapprove of how the prime minister handled his responsibilities.
  • While critics of climate policies often cite the potential for economic risk, that argument resonates with only 29 per cent of those surveyed. In comparison, 42 per cent think the measures in the national climate plan will make Canada’s economy stronger over time.

Chart showing most Canadians who've heard of Canada's new climate plan think it will make Canada's economy stronger over time or do no harm.

These results come from a survey of 1,848 Canadians conducted Dec. 12 to 14, 2016, by Abacus Data at the request of Clean Energy Canada, measuring Canadians’ views of climate and clean energy policy issues, including the new Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Support for clean energy, despite Trump agenda

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall did not agree to the new climate framework, and said the likely direction of U.S. climate and energy policy under president-elect Donald Trump means we need to be very cautious about adopting climate policies in Canada, according to Abacus Data.

“The national climate plan negotiations were tense at times, but Canadians are largely happy with the results. Most Canadians believe that we can build a stronger economy by taking action to cut carbon pollution—and they see it as one of the prime minister’s jobs to deliver that clean growth by investing in clean energy,” said Clare Demerse, Federal Policy Advisor, Clean Energy Canada.

However, only 17 per cent of Canadians think Canada should stick with fossil fuels for the long term in light of  Trump’s energy agenda.

Many more (49 per cent) said Trump’s pro-fossil fuel stance made them more inclined to want Canada to shift towards cleaner energy.

Chart showing Donald Trump's pro-fossil fuels stance makes many Canadians more supportive of clean energy

Support for a transition away from fossil fuels

The survey found that 70 per cent of Canadians want the country to “shift its energy use as quickly as possible to cleaner, lower-carbon sources of energy and away from fossil fuels.”

Just 30 per cent said they felt it was “better for Canada to stick with mostly fossil fuel energy for a long time to come.”

In every region but Alberta, a majority favours a transition from fossil fuels.

In Alberta, opinion is evenly divided. The overwhelming majority (82 per cent) of Canadians under 35 favour a shift as quickly as possible.

Chart showing Canadians' opinions on how quickly we should transition away from fossil fuels and to clean energy

2017 federal budget

To deliver on the new national climate plan, the next federal budget will need to include funding for initiatives to reduce carbon pollution.

“Assembling a workable public consensus on energy and climate change is the most challenging agenda item in Canadian politics today. These numbers reveal that while no government could please everyone, especially where economic stakes differ and emotions run high, the Trudeau government has laid out a path towards a lower-carbon economy that has alienated few and found acceptance by a large majority,” said Bruce Anderson, Chairman, Abacus Data.

The Abacus data survey shows that a large majority of Canadians support or would accept allocating funding in the 2017 federal budget to a range of clean energy priorities, including:

  • Incentives to help people make their homes more energy efficient
  • Building power lines between provinces to make renewable electricity more available
  • Installing electric vehicle charging stations near highways, cities and towns, and
  • Offering incentives to people who buy electric vehicles.

Support for these potential budget measures cross all regions of the country, age groups, and partisan supporters.

Chart showing Canadian support for clean energy budget measures

“Canadians support a shift in our energy use from fossil fuels to cleaner energy as quickly as possible. And the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. hasn’t dented that support—if anything, this survey suggests that the new U.S. leader’s position actually makes Canadians more inclined to support clean energy here at home,” said Merran Smith, executive director, Clean Energy Canada.

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