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Kiwis face up to climate change, but way ahead remains unclear: 5-year trend

78% of New Zealanders agree that climate change is an important issue for them personally, with a whopping 91% expecting to see more frequent and extreme flooding events, according to the latest IAG-Ipsos Climate Change Poll, brought to you by NZI, State and AMI Insurance.

But the nationwide survey, now into its fifth year, also reveals a clear message. While climate change is of increasing concern, only 34% of New Zealanders believe our current response is adequate. 

Chief Executive for NZI, State and AMI, Amanda Whiting says: “The 2022 results confirm a trend that we’ve seen building over the past five years. New Zealanders are concerned about the impacts of climate change, they want a clear direction, and they want action.

“NZI, State and AMI Insurance are committed to keeping New Zealanders insured,” continues Mrs Whiting.  “However, it’s clear that insurance alone is not the answer. As a country we need to reduce the risks to properties and lives resulting from climate change.

“The most important thing we can do is ensure people are safe from the impacts of natural disasters.

“For us, that means working with central and local government to help ensure there is greater investment in flood prevention measures and other solutions that either protect people or move them out of harm’s way.

Over the past three years we have consistently seen around 75% of people say that they want central and local government to invest in building infrastructure that reduces the impact of climate change

Amanda Whiting

Chief Executive for NZI, State and AMI

“And, over the past four years we have seen a 10% growth in the number of New Zealanders who want local councils to zone land to reduce and avoid the impact of climate change (now 74%) and consent developments that do the same (now 69%).”

The survey results show that not only do New Zealanders believe that our national response is either not appropriate or fast enough, but fewer are taking individual action to combat the effects of climate change: in the past year, the number of people prepared to act to reduce the impacts of climate change on themselves personally, reduced from 69% to 64%. This mirrors a steady decline in the number of people already taking steps to reduce climate impacts, dropping 9% over the past two years to only 50%.

Mrs Whiting says, “The poll shows that only 49% of people know what they need to do to help reduce the impacts of climate change. That question reached a peak of 58% in 2020 but has continued to drop since then.

“While more action has been taken on climate, like the Emissions Reduction Plan and the National Adaptation Plan, there still seems to be a high level of uncertainty around the role individuals need to play and how they will be personally impacted.”

Climate scientist and Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria University, Professor James Renwick says: “With the recent spate of fires, heatwaves, and floods around the world, it’s no surprise to see a big increase in the number of people saying impacts are happening now, rather than in 11-20 years, or being unsure. But beyond the concern, there’s a lot of confusion, and a need for education and clear messages about actions we can all take.”

Another key trend highlighted in the research is that New Zealanders are increasingly looking to the Government for direction, with 48% of respondents in 2022 now saying that they believe the Government holds the most responsibility for acting on climate change. This is up from 25% five years ago, in 2018.

Climate Change Minister, James Shaw says the survey illustrates the urgency and importance of a comprehensive response to the climate crisis.   

“Creating a climate friendly future for Aotearoa is a priority for this Government. We can still limit the severity of climate change by doing everything we can to limit warming. That means cutting climate pollution in every part of the economy, which is the job of the Emissions Reduction Plan.

“Policies like the clean car discount are already proving their worth, making it easier for more people to make the switch to a low-emission vehicle. In so many areas taking action on climate change comes with the happy coincidence of making our lives better – the job of Government is to give people the options to do that.

“But we also need to provide communities with the tools they need to plan for the future and for the climate impacts we know we cannot avoid. Some climate impacts are already being experienced by communities all over the country. The National Adaption Plan will give communities the guidance they need to prepare,” says James Shaw.

Mrs Whiting adds that the question of who should pay for climate change impacts has consistently had a mixed response in the poll. “A growing number of people – up to 53% this year - acknowledge that those living in badly affected areas may be required to move, but there are mixed views on who should pay, with the results indicating shared responsibility between Government, local councils, and homeowners.

“In April this year, we launched our first-ever Wild Weather Tracker, which reports on insurance claims data related to wild weather events. We hope that by regularly sharing this type of information, people will be better able to prepare and protect themselves from the damaging impacts of wild weather events.

“The reality is that climate change is no longer something for the future – it is with us now – and it requires us to work together to ensure the best outcome for New Zealanders.”