Brussels, 12 June 2013 – The results of two national surveys published today disclose strong public and corporate support for the energy transition in Europe’s third-largest economy, France. The surveys, conducted by the European Climate Foundation in conjunction with the French Economic, Social Affairs, and Environment Council, are the first major opinion polls conducted in France on the issue. They shed light on public and corporate views on the challenges associated with the energy transition as well as on incentives and perceived barriers to the development of national policy in the field.
The results feed into the official French national dialogue on the energy transition, which will come to an end next month.
The findings, which analyse the views of citizens and business leaders in two separate data sets, show that 83% of citizens and 91% of business leaders believe the energy transition will have a positive long-term impact on the French economy. Business leaders also agree that the energy transition will deliver technological innovation (88%), provide access to new markets (78%), and increase the attractiveness of French companies overall (69%). 58% of citizens and 54% of entrepreneurs believe that the transition will have a positive impact on employment.
Boosting the economy while protecting the environment
The French see positive impacts of the energy transition for the economy and the environment: 85% of business leaders expect a positive impact in terms of pollution and environmental risks, 84% for the preservation of natural resources, and 76% for the fight against climate change.
83% of citizens and 91% of business leaders believe the transition will have a positive impact overall with benefits increasing over time.
Costs seen to increase at first, then decline over the long term
Business leaders make clear that the cost of energy is a concern. 76% complained about a lack of financial resources and voiced the need for public support, funding, or specific exemptions (68%). While 91% of respondents from the business community see a key role for the banking sector here, 59% support the use of revenues from carbon trading such as the EU ETS or from ecological taxes to finance the transition.
Similarly, 78% of French citizens believe that energy will be more expensive in the short term; the figure drops to 33% however when looking at the longer term. 43% of the French public believes energy will ultimately be cheaper.
Limited confidence in the French government and the EU
42% of citizens consider the French government as one of the main barriers to a successful energy transition. Only one in four French citizens has confidence in the French national government to effectively lead on the transition. This compares to one in two who have trust in local authorities and one in three who have confidence in the European Union.
Business leaders accept that French companies will have to play a role in the transition (87%), but a greater number believes responsibility lies with scientists (96%), the government (90%) and the European Union (89%).
Stephen Boucher, Programme Director of EU Climate Policies at the European Climate Foundation, calls the survey results “very positive”: “Entrepreneurs almost unanimously agree that the energy transition is good for the economy and that it will have a positive impact on employment, French competitiveness, and innovation.
This bears lessons beyond France: at a time when mainstream conservative federations are calling to put the brakes on policies facilitating the energy transition, this detailed picture of what corporate leaders on the ground and citizens actually think is a clear call to action to the French government and the EU.
The survey was conducted by leading research firm Harris Interactive from 16 April to 7 May 2013. Samples were developed in line with the quota method and included 1,000 individuals representative of the French population and 803 business leaders representing the French business community at large.