Federal government out of step with leading thinkers on sustainability, climate and energy issues: survey

June 24, 2010

The federal government is out of step with leading thinkers on issues related to sustainability, energy and climate change, according to the results of a groundbreaking survey of more than 5,000 experts and government officials.

The 2010 Global Thought Leader Survey on Sustainability, released today in advance of the G8/G20 meetings, was conducted by McAllister Opinion Research on behalf of the Pembina Institute. Overall, 59 per cent of respondents work for various government sectors, making this one of the most significant barometers of what government officials think about progress and solutions on climate change and "greening" the economy.

"This survey provides insight into the challenges and opportunities facing Canada on energy and the environment, and highlights the fact that Canada is slipping behind in its ability to compete in the emerging clean energy economy," says Marlo Raynolds, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • More than three in four (77%) Canadian thought leaders rate Canada's efforts at addressing climate change as poor or very poor, while 75 per cent say the same about Canada's performance at developing a greener economy.  Two in three (68%) rate Canada's efforts to expand renewable energy as poor or very poor.
  • Increased energy efficiency is ranked as having the highest potential to achieve a sustainable future in Canada (60%). But just 17 per cent of respondents say the same of nuclear power, and seven per cent see highest potential in coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) - two of the federal government's top environmental spending priorities.
  • Respondents named federal leadership as the most important factor (68%) affecting the implementation of sustainable energy solutions.
  • When asked to rate the solutions with the highest potential to address climate change, a majority of Canadian thought leaders first point to energy efficiency (62%), followed by renewable energy (56%).
  • On the effectiveness of a carbon tax versus cap-and-trade in addressing greenhouse gas emissions, two in three (67%) thought leaders across all regions recommend implementing a carbon tax either alone (27%) or with cap-and-trade (40%). Very few (5%) point to cap-and-trade as a top choice on its own.
  • Cutting subsidies to fossil fuel-based energy is the policy option with the highest potential (58%) to help Canada achieve a green economy, according to Canadian thought leaders.

"These results clearly illustrate that leaders within government, academia and the private sector understand the energy and sustainability challenges Canada faces, and have a high level of agreement on how best to tackle them," says Raynolds. "What Canada still lacks is the political commitment to take sufficient action."


The Pembina Institute is a non-partisan sustainable energy think tank.



Angus McAllister
Principal, McAllister Opinion Research
Cell: (778) 999-7506

Download the survey summary and detailed results at www.pembina.org/pub/2040.


The results of this study are based on online survey interviews completed by 5,109 thought leaders holding positions in respected government, academic, industry, institutional and non-profit organizations in Canada, the United States and Europe.

The study was fielded online over a period of approximately 12 weeks.  A preliminary or pre-test wave of email invitations was sent out December 9 to 31, 2009, followed by the main wave of invitations and reminders, sent January 4 through February 28, 2010.

The survey panel members are considered representative of the expert populations contacted, although not strictly a random sample. As a point of comparison for estimating survey accuracy, a random sample of 5,109 respondents would have a margin of error of  ±1.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The sample size for each region, and the margin of error at a confidence level of 19 times out of 20, were:

Canada   (n=4,282)       ±1.3%
USA        (n=601)          ±3.9%
Europe    (n=227)          ±6.5%


Our perspectives to your inbox.

The Pembina Institute endeavors to maintain your privacy and protect the confidentiality of any personal information that you may give us. We do not sell, share, rent or otherwise disseminate personal information. Read our full privacy policy.