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Workman placing solar panels on the Vatican roof
The Vatican is a recent convert to the theology of renewables

An opinion poll in 11 countries has produced what organisers term a "global mandate" for action on climate change.

About half of the respondents wanted governments to play a major role in curbing emissions, but only a quarter said their leaders were doing enough.

In developing countries, a majority of people were prepared to make "lifestyle changes" to reduce climate change.

The survey was commissioned by the HSBC Climate Partnership, which includes business and environmental groups.

Lord Nicholas Stern, who led the 2006 Stern Review into the economics of climate change and now works as a special advisor to the HSBC partnership, said this amounted to a global mandate for stronger action.

Despite the financial crisis, climate change was very much in the minds of the general public
Francis Sullivan

"It does show that people in the world expect their governments to take strong action as as matter of responsibility, and hope they will work with other governments to take action," he told BBC News.

"It is not a story which says 'I will do something only if others do'."

The survey is published just five days before this year's United Nations climate conference opens in the Polish city of Poznan.

More than money

The survey revealed that 43% of people questioned put climate change ahead of the world's financial instability as an issue of current concern, even though the surveys ran in the turbulent months of September and October.

"Despite the fact this research took place at a time when the global financial crisis was taking off, climate change was very much in the minds of the general public as an issue of concern," commented Francis Sullivan, HSBC's environmental advisor and a former director of conservation with the environment group WWF.

However, the numbers saying they would alter their lifestyles to reduce climate change had fallen in the year between the previous survey, in 2007, and this one.

Lord Stern
The poll does give a "global mandate", Lord Stern believes

This still left sizeable majorities in most of the developing countries polled - Brazil, India, Malaysia and Mexico - saying they were willing to make changes.

In China it was just under half, as it was in the industrialised countries taking part - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and US.

The 2007 poll, conducted in a subset of these countries, had shown a larger proportion of people saying they would spend extra time or money to curb climate change.

The proportion who said they "heard a lot about" the issue also fell between 2007 and 2008, perhaps indicating a decline in media reporting. Last year saw blanket coverage of the series of reports put out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Overall, the findings broadly agree with a survey commissioned by the BBC last year, which found that two-thirds of people polled in 21 countries backed urgent action on climate change.

The HSBC Climate Confidence Monitor polled 1,000 people in each of the countries mentioned above, and in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News

[email protected]

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