Consumer support shifts away from fossil fuels despite rising energy prices, survey finds

More than 80% of consumers believe it is important for their country to focus on sustainable energy sources

The Middle East and Central Asia face dire economic and financial consequences if nothing is done to address the worsening climate crisis. Photo: AP
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Consumers across countries and demographic groups have expressed strong support for their governments to move away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources, despite feeling the pinch from rising energy prices, a new survey has found.

About 84 per cent of respondents emphasised the importance of their country’s shift to clean energy, according to the World Economic Forum-Ipsos global survey. This polled 22,534 adults in 30 countries, including the US, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa and Turkey between February 18 and March 4 this year.

Although a majority of consumers worldwide expect their overall spending power to be "significantly" affected by further energy price increases, only 13 per cent of those surveyed blamed climate policies for rising prices.

“The energy transition has always been about security, affordability and environmental sustainability: the so-called energy triangle,” said Roberto Bocca, head of Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials platform at the World Economic Forum.

“The current geopolitical context makes it even more true today. This survey underlines that popular support exists for the transition to a new energy system that is more sustainable, secure and affordable.”

The Middle East and Central Asia face dire economic and financial consequences if nothing is done to address the worsening climate crisis, according to a separate International Monetary Fund report released on Wednesday.

The IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said climate change was already affecting people’s lives and livelihoods in the region and the problem is set to escalate if the world fails to rein in rising temperatures.

However, rising energy prices have pushed inflation to record rates.

Britain’s inflation rate surged to a 30-year high of 6.2 per cent in the year to February, adding to pressure on policymakers to protect consumers from the increasing cost of living.

Meanwhile, consumer inflation in the US rose to a 40-year high of 7.9 per cent over the past year in February, propelled by the increasing costs of food, petrol and housing.

Respondents to the WEF survey were asked to consider the energy they use for daily expenses — such as transportation, heating or cooling homes, cooking or powering appliances — and assess how much energy price increases would affect their overall spending power.

On average, although more than half of consumers (55 per cent) expect their overall spending power to be significantly affected by energy price increases, most people do not blame climate policies for rising energy costs.

Instead, the most cited reasons for the recent rise in energy prices were "volatility in the oil and gas markets" and "geopolitical tensions", according to 28 per cent and 25 per cent of the respondents, respectively.

Another 18 per cent cited insufficient supply to meet increased demand, 16 per cent said they were not sure, and only 13 per cent blamed climate change policies — the least cited reason on average.

While 84 per cent said it was important to them that their country shifts away from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources in the next five years, the numbers varied between countries, from 72 per cent in Russia (the lowest globally) and 75 per cent in the US to 93 per cent in South Africa and Peru. Citizens of emerging countries were keener to see a shift.

Although support for sustainable energy was strong among all demographic groups, slightly more women (87 per cent) thought it was important to move away from fossil fuels than men (81 per cent), the survey found.

Updated: March 30, 2022, 2:57 PM