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New attitudes survey shows international support for renewables

Posted by Sam Tonge on 15 November 2017 at 2:10 pm

Results from a pioneering international survey known as the Green Energy Barometer, show us that the vast majority of the public in countries sampled support a worldwide transition from fossil fuels to green energy. The largest ever survey undertaken to gauge attitudes towards sustainable energy shows us that on average 8 in 10 believe the world should be run entirely on renewable energy.

Commissioned by Ørsted (formerly known as Dong Energy), the international survey aims to better understand public opinion on the transition from ‘black’ forms of energy, (that which originates from fossil fuels) to green energy which derives from renewable sources. It gathers attitudes each year from 26,000 people across 13 countries including the UK, US, parts of Europe and East Asia.

The survey results from 2017 can give us plenty of food for thought and provides strong reason to be positive. For example, 82% believe ‘it is important to create a world fully powered by renewable energy’, regardless of age, education level or political ideology.

What’s particularly fascinating about the findings are the motivations underlying the desire to be green. Traditionally seen by some as the preserve of environmentalists, support for green energy now appears strongly rooted in wider societal and economic concerns beyond climate change. These concerns include patriotism and national pride about leading the way in technology (75%), improved health and wellbeing (53%) and a boost to economic prospects and growth in jobs (73%).

Although 82% overall see a world fully powered by renewable energy as important, when you break down the results by country and age, the subsequent picture is particularly revealing. In China this increases to 93%, in the US 83% and Canada 84%. On average, the sample aged 55 and above had the highest proportion (86%) of those who see renewables as integral to our future, 6% higher than those aged 18-34. 

At first glance it’s easy to welcome these results which arguably come across as reasonably uplifting, showing how much progress is being made. Although we have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the prospect of a global green future, we must ask the question of where these findings on attitudes leave us in terms of taking tangible action.

The exclusion of countries within South America and Africa in survey responses is surely a notable absence and calls into question whether the attitudes published here are also shared amongst developing countries. Experts have warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017, following three years of flat emissions. In addition, just this week 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries have issued a grave ‘warning to humanity’, stressing that countries are not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our biosphere from climate change, resource depletion and pollution. 

Hence, does desire based in our attitudes result in political will and widespread behaviour change?

It is without doubt that this year has seen some substantial progress being made in terms of adopting greener forms of energy. World records have been smashed across the board in renewable energy generation this year, alongside governments announcing a phasing-out of petrol and diesel vehicles as early as 2040 in the UK and France.

The results of the Green Energy Barometer provide justification for these recent political developments which follow international backing of an energy transition which is not only greener, but also soon to be more socially acceptable and economically-viable. Despite these encouraging signs, what remains clear to us is that the next decade will be pivotal in determining the potential for societies to adopt green energy as the norm. We now appear to be in a position whereby we have enormous potential to consign the ‘black’ fuels many of us rely on today back into the ground where they belong.

You can see the original study by Ørsted and draw your own conclusions here.


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Image credit: Jack Haskell

About the author:

Sam has contributed to our blog since 2016 and previously worked for the National Energy Foundation.

He became interested in green energy after completing a degree in Geography (BSc) at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Sam is passionate about renewable energy and is committed to spreading the word about the role it plays in delivering environmental sustainability. 

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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