Consumers in emerging economies are more concerned and willing to act against climate change than those in developed countries, reveals a new global research by Accenture.
Although the economic crisis has not reduced worldwide concern about climate change, 53 per cent of people in emerging economies claim to be extremely concerned about it against only a third (31 per cent) in mature markets.
Consumers were interviewed for the Accenture End Consumer Observatory on Climate Change through an online survey conducted in native languages with 10,733 consumers in 22 countries worldwide, during September and October 2008.
In North America (1,732 interviewees), Western Europe (4,244 interviewees), Japan and Australia (1,100 interviewees), as well as in the emerging-economy countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China, Argentina, Chile and South Africa (3,657 interviewees).
The sample was representative of the general population in the different countries except in the emerging-economy countries, where a sample representative of each country's urban population was interviewed.
A majority (56 per cent) of people in emerging economies thinks climate change will certainly have a direct impact on their life against only 28 per cent in developed economies. Yet, 70 per cent of people in emerging economies are optimistic that climate change can be solved, against less than half (48 per cent) in developed economies.
The polarisation of concern and confidence is reflected in the difference in the willingness to act. Over half (53 per cent) of people in emerging markets said they would certainly switch to a new product if it was certified to minimize damage to the climate, versus a mere 24 per cent in developed economies. And 61 per cent said they would certainly switch to an energy provider offering lower carbon products and services if this was an option, versus only 30 per cent in developed economies.
''Governments in North America and Europe cannot assume their countries will lead climate change solutions or policy,'' said Sander van 't Noordende, group chief executive of Accenture's Resources operating group.
''Low carbon investments will be drawn to the most concerned and active consumers and to those economies that can leapfrog to new technologies and implement cutting edge policies. There is a small window of opportunity for western governments to act before a global climate change policy agreement gives emerging economies the incentive to attract investment away from developed markets.''
Consumers need more help to reduce carbon emissions
Accenture's research indicates that disparities have opened up in all countries between intentions and actions related to climate change. In 2007, 89 per cent of people contacted said they would be willing to switch to energy companies offering low carbon emission products and services. But in 2008, only 12 per cent of those in countries where switching one's gas or electricity provider was an option actually took that step.
Differentiation between energy providers is a major obstacle to consumer action. Three-quarters say that their current electricity/natural gas provider's climate friendly products and services are no different from those of competitor providers, against only 18 per cent who say they are better.
''Consumer power can compel companies to deliver products and services that address climate change,'' said Luca Cesari, Global Managing Director of Accenture's Utility Industries Group. ''Energy providers must provide a thriving market for low-carbon services, and governments must enable this transformation with clear policy and properly aligned incentives. Utility companies are the linchpin and must see the commercial opportunities of delivering affordable and innovative low-carbon services.''
Cost is the largest inhibitor to buying services that help address climate change. Of those interviewed, 46 per cent consider cost as a very important factor. Consumers also want energy providers to improve financial arrangements. For instance, 80 per cent of respondents would consider installing a domestic electricity generator if they could pay a monthly fee instead of an upfront cost.
A lack of information was cited by 36 per cent of respondents; with nearly half (49 per cent) saying they do not understand enough about how they can personally act to combat the effects of climate change.
''Energy providers can learn from manufacturers of consumer goods how to differentiate themselves through further product and service innovation,'' said Sander van't Noordende. ''Governments and businesses must work together to deploy new technologies that stimulate the shift to a low carbon economy.''