Climate change will be expensive. Who should pay?


Message to companies: pay!

Among U.S. respondents, 41% said companies should fund “a lot” of the costs related to the fight against global warming. Nearly 70% of respondents said the private sector should pay “a lot” or “a little”. No other group has come close.

The sentiment was particularly strong among high earners, 54% of whom said businesses should bear much of the burden.

And while it’s no surprise that a majority of adults who identify as Democrats — 56% — want businesses to stand up, 30% of Republicans and 40% of independents agree with them. Two-thirds of Republicans said businesses should pay most or some of the costs.

The feeling is global

The sentiment is not limited to the United States. More than 40% of respondents in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia and South Africa also said businesses would have to bear a large part of the cost of climate change. In Brazil, the number jumped to 56%.

It’s not just money

In a separate question, adult respondents blamed corporations for doing too little on the climate, ranking them below governments and international organisations. Banks and other financial institutions are doing particularly badly.

In the United States, only 5% of respondents said that companies were taking action to fight climate change; just 4% said Wall Street was doing all it could.

Change is coming

Businesses are huge players in the fight against climate change, and not just because they are big polluters. Big companies alone are worth a total of 59 trillion dollars. Since 2020, investors held a record $115 trillion in assets.

That’s a lot of capital that can be directed to solutions. For context, the total output of the US economy is about $24 trillion.

Many companies, under pressure from customers, employees and shareholders, have begun to change their behavior. They set voluntary standards on climate disclosure, sustainable accounting and reducing emissions. They are turning to renewable energies and greening their vehicle fleets. Some large banks are experimenting with loans that focus on positive environmental outcomes.

An influential coalition of big business is using its political clout to push for policy change in Washington. Others name and shame their fellow polluters to get them to take action. CDPa central repository of corporate environmental data, has used financial institutions to pressure their own customers to report on emissions, water use and other environmental metrics.

But progress remains slow. Tens of thousands of companies do not report emissions data. Companies are complaining a proposed US rule on environmental, social and governance investments, and corporate lobbyists should lead a fight against President Joe Biden’s plans to recalculate the economic costs of carbon.

The POLITICO Morning Consult Global Sustainability Poll surveyed 1,000 adults in 13 countries from December 16-22. The survey has a margin of error of 3%.

Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, providing insight into what people are thinking in real time by surveying tens of thousands of people around the world every day.

More details on the survey and its methodology can be found in this spreadsheet.

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