More Kiwis are worried about climate change because of Covid-19 – and fear the pandemic will delay a crucial time for curbing future warming, a new poll finds.
The third annual poll commissioned by insurer IAG also found most Kiwis think New Zealand is heading in the right direction on climate policy - but not fast enough.
The poll, carried out by Ipsos, and which surveyed 1000 people over a week in mid-June, again showed climate change was a big issue for New Zealanders.
Nearly half now thought Government actions were now good – up from just a third in 2018 – and nearly four in 10 felt New Zealand would be able to hit its emissions reduction targets, despite analyses showing the country is so far falling short.
When it came to Covid-19, people were worried about disruption – 45 per cent thought the economic recovery could delay action, and 86 per cent thought climate change should be part of New Zealand's bounceback.
On the plus side, a third agreed the Covid-19 crisis had made climate change more important to them.
The majority of respondents also thought they would be personally affected by it – for instance, more than 80 per cent believed the world would see more extreme droughts, floods, storms and water shortages – and nearly two thirds were already taking steps to minimise its impact on them.
But , nearly a third were more worried about how climate change would impact them, rather than about their impact on climate change.
Between two thirds and three quarters of respondents thought some people might need to move from where they lived and wanted councils to zone land specifically because of climate change.
Nearly half thought the Government should buy out severely affected property owners – and a third believed taxes and local rates should be put toward the response.
More specifically, people had conflicting views about the pricing of climate risk, with some wanting banks and insurers to reflect it in their products, and others wanting cross-subsidisation and government intervention.
Three quarters thought there would need to be a rethink on land use – and agreed that the Government should also invest in better infrastructure.
IAG New Zealand's sustainability and climate change spokesman, Bryce Davies, said the country couldn't afford to lose its focus on climate change.
"Reducing and adapting to the impacts of climate change must be part of our economic response to Covid-19," he said.
"No matter what steps are taken to reduce climate change, we cannot escape its impacts and we all have to start thinking about how we are going to adapt to them."
Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick said the views around Covid-19 were particularly interesting.
"The improvement in air quality we saw around the world in March and April as the world economy slowed down brought home to many of us that human activity does directly affect the air we breathe and the state of our environment," Renwick said.
"The effects on greenhouse gas emissions and the pace of climate change have been less dramatic, but still have led to a reduction in emissions this year of around 7 or 8 per cent, comparable with what is needed every year from now on if we are to stop global warming at around 1.5C."
Again, he said, this had demonstrated that concerted action can make a difference.
"The goal now is to find ways to reduce emissions every year in a way that does not damage economic activity so much."
Climate Change Minister James Shaw noted the results showed a big jump in the number of people pleased with the Government's progress to date, but acknowledged they wanted it to go further and faster.
"In just three years we have put in place one of the world's most ambitious policy frameworks to bring our emissions down, so imagine what's possible if we continue to take the action people are demanding of us," he said.
"The results do also confirm what we have been saying for a long time: that our recovery from the global pandemic needs to prioritise action that helps solve the climate crisis.
"People recognise that we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to change, to plan our recovery, create a climate-friendly economy that works for everyone."
In the year since the last poll, South Canterbury bore the brunt of the second-most costly weather event of the 21st century, the Timaru hailstorm, which cost more than $130 million in insurance claims.
New Zealand skies turned red and brown during the summer due to the "Black Summer" Australian bushfires which burnt through an estimated 186,000sq km, destroying 5900 buildings, killing a billion animals and 34 people, and costing an estimated $5b.
Since the poll, Northland has suffered a severe rainstorm which resulted in more than 1000 claims so far for IAG alone. The recovery effort was expected to last months.
Under the Paris accord, New Zealand has pledged to slash emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels, and 11 per cent below 1990 levels, by 2030.
Shaw has tasked the recently formed Climate Change Commission to investigate whether those targets – which sit alongside the Government's zero-carbon 2050 goal – are ambitious enough to meet the UN's aspirational target of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Stuff reported this month that Ministry for the Environment officials have already told Shaw that New Zealand's Paris Agreement targets allowed some 85m tonnes more emissions this decade than would be compatible with a 1.5C goal.