Eight out of ten Britons know nothing about the Johannesburg Summit

A new MORI poll has revealed that eight out of ten people in Britain have not heard of or know nothing about the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) starting on Monday in Johannesburg. However, seven out of ten British consumers believe that they can personally help to reduce global warming.

The new survey, commissioned by carbon offset company Future Forests and car rental firm Avis, has revealed that consumers claim to have a high willingness to take personal action on global warming and to pay to offset the environmental impact of their international travel.

The study was conducted during 8-13 August, and involved interviews with 989 members of the British public. Fifty five percent stated that they believe that the main responsibility for controlling global warming lies with governments, 27% believe that the responsibility lies with companies, and 14% believe it is up to individuals and their families.

More than 70% of those questioned claimed that they would be willing to pay a premium on air travel, hotel accommodation and car rental if it meant the carbon dioxide emissions would be offset. Seventy percent said that they would be likely to pay to offset flights, at a cost of around £7 for a short flight; 73% would pay an extra £1 for one-week’s car rental; and 79% would pay an extra £1 per night in a hotel.

Future Forests have been running a not-for-profit scheme which allows delegates at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to offset the emissions from their travel to South Africa and their stay in the country during the conference by funding new renewable and low carbon projects in the region (see related story). The conference has received criticism in the mainstream press for having a negative impact on climate change due to the 65,000 delegates that will be attending. However, delegates appear to be failing to counter the criticism, as only 7% have taken up Future Forests’ scheme.

The UK Government, however, appear to be a leading light, with its entire delegation offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions, Sue Welland, co-founder of Future Forests told edie. This comes despite criticism last week that the current Labour administration does not have sustainable development at the heart of its policies (see related story).

Future Forests have also recently launched a scheme in conjunction with responsibletravel.com, by which travellers can pay extra to offset their emissions from a flight (see related story). Since April, Avis have been operating a scheme whereby customers can pay an average extra €1.60 for five day’s hire to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of their car (see related story). The scheme has proved to be popular, and Avis expects over 70,000 native trees to have been planted by the end of 2002 as a result of its carbon offset programme.

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