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New Poll: Hold Polluters Accountable for Climate Change, Invest in Clean Energy

Peter Miller

Posted November 14, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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A new poll released today shows that voters in California, Oregon and Washington support efforts to hold polluters accountable for contributing to climate change and want the financial penalties invested in clean energy sources and infrastructure.

Coincidentally, the results are being released when California is launching the nation’s first carbon market under the state’s landmark clean energy law, AB32. By covering the state’s largest carbon emitters, the cap-and-trade program is one of the measures designed to help reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. 

The poll conducted by Lake Research, revealed that a 65 percent majority of voters favor a proposal to “invest funds raised by charging large companies climate pollution fees in expanding clean energy sources,” including 45 percent who strongly favor it. Just 20 percent oppose and 24 percent remain undecided. 

The poll also found broad support for the proposal to “reduce climate pollution and invest in clean energy sources by charging large companies for the pollution they create that contributes to climate change” across all three states. When given the option to support investing the pollution fees in reducing the deficit, more voters favored investing the revenues in clean energy (65 vs. 57 percent).

As my colleague Transportation Policy Director Deron Lovaas noted, “This poll shows that voters in California, Oregon and Washington strongly want cleaner, more energy-efficient communities and transportation choices. Children and future generations deserve new economic opportunities, improved quality of life as well as cities and towns prepared to address the effects of climate change. Voters know that holding polluters responsible can help achieve all three.”

The survey also showed voters do not believe economic growth will be hindered if polluters are held responsible. Quite the opposite: they believe using the fees to invest in clean energy industries and infrastructure will create millions of jobs while reducing pollution.

Voters also agreed that we need to address the future impacts of climate change.  Sixty-three percent of those polled supported taking steps to better prepare for the damage, injury, and cost to communities that comes from extreme weather like Sandy by: first, assessing where we build new infrastructure; second, taking steps as a country to increase our readiness; and third, reducing harmful emissions that contribute to extreme weather. 

This shows once again that people are making the connection between climate change and severe weather, and that they want their political leaders to take action.

The responses also indicated support for the clean energy measures in the groundbreaking AB 32 climate law, such as energy efficiency and renewable fuels, solar and wind energy, while favoring efforts to speed the transition toward cleaner energy and tackling climate change while growing the economy:

  • 78 percent of voters favor investing in making homes and businesses more energy efficient (55 percent strongly favor).
  • 71 percent favor expanding investment in innovative infrastructure such as clean fuels, electric vehicles, bus rapid transit and commuter rail (52 percent strongly favor).
  • 74 percent favor training workers to transition from dirty industries to clean energy industries (51 percent strongly favor).
  • 67 percent support closing tax loopholes for dirty fuels (50 percent strongly favor).

The survey was jointly sponsored by NRDC, BlueGreen Alliance, the U.S. Green Building Council and Ceres (which manages the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling about $10 trillion.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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