Study: Emerging Economies More Concerned about Warming

Consumers in emerging economies are more concerned and willing to take actions against climate change than those in developed countries, according to global research by Accenture released Jan. 15.

Although the economic crisis has not reduced worldwide concern about climate change, 53 percent of people in emerging economies claim to be extremely concerned about it against only a third (31 percent) in mature markets.

A majority (56 percent) of people in emerging economies thinks climate change will certainly have a direct impact on their life against only 28 percent in developed economies. Yet, 70 percent of people in emerging economies are optimistic that climate change can be solved, against less than half (48 percent) in developed economies.

The polarization of concern and confidence is reflected in the difference in the willingness to act. Over half (53 percent) 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 percent in developed economies. And 61 percent said they would certainly switch to an energy provider offering lower carbon products and services if this was an option, versus only 30 percent 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."

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 percent 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 percent consider cost as a very important factor. Consumers also want energy providers to improve financial arrangements. For instance, 80 percent of respondents would consider installing a domestic electricity generator if they could pay a monthly fee instead of an upfront cost.

The study is based on an online survey conducted in native languages with 10,733 consumers in 22 countries worldwide, during September and October 2008. Consumers were interviewed 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).