A record high number of Australians are worried about climate change, according to a survey published on Wednesday, confirming a growing shift in favour of climate action in a country that has suffered devastating bushfires and floods in recent years.
The annual report by the Australia Institute think tank showed three-quarters of Australians are worried about climate change, of which 40% are very concerned, up from 34% last year and 24% four years ago.
The Climate of the Nation report comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds talks with the junior partner in his conservative coalition government to strengthen the country’s emissions reduction targets ahead of UN climate talks this month.
“The majority of Australians want the federal government to move now on decisive climate action, rather than wait for other countries to act,” said Richie Merzian, the Australia Institute’s climate and energy director.
The survey also found more than two-thirds of Australians think the government should set targets to achieve net zero emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with 53% saying the country should step up its target for 2030.
Morrison has said Australia expects to beat its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, but is under pressure from the United States, Britain and European Union, as well as Australia’s big business lobby group, to strengthen the target to around 50%.
In contrast to the United States and European countries, Australia has not set electric vehicle targets to help curb carbon emissions.
However the Australia Institute survey found 64% of Australians favour requiring all new car sales in the country to be zero emissions vehicles by 2035 and 71% support government subsidies for electric vehicle purchases.
This was the first year the survey posed questions about electric vehicles.
The survey was run by YouGov Galaxy from Aug. 2 to Aug. 11, sampling 2,626 Australians over 18. The overall margin of error was 1.91%.