HSBC’s first international survey of public attitudes towards climate change suggests that while climate change may be a global issue, reactions to it vary strongly. The HSBC Climate Confidence Index shows that people in developing economies exhibit the greatest concern, commitment and optimism about the problem of climate change, while in developed economies people demonstrate higher levels of indifference, reluctance and fatalism.

Citizens of China and India are most optimistic that the problem of climate change can be overcome, while those in France, Germany and the U.K. are least optimistic that a solution will be found.

The research, based on a sample of 9,000 people in nine countries and across four continents, also found that climate change is having a significant impact on public opinion in the developing countries surveyed. Around 60 percent of respondents registered a high level of concern in China, India, Mexico and Brazil, compared with only 22 per cent in the UK and 26 per cent in Germany; and

People’s assessment of their commitment to tackling climate is higher in developing economies. Around 47 per cent of people indicated high levels of personal commitment to combating climate change in India and Brazil, compared with only 19 per cent in the UK.

Jon Williams, head of group sustainable development for HSBC Holdings, says: “The HSBC Climate Confidence Index is an important barometer of international public attitudes towards climate change. Over time we believe it will enable us to better understand the actions individuals are prepared to take in reducing their carbon footprint and how we can work with governments and the business community to provide financial solutions to support them.”

The index also highlights the emergence of so-called ‘green rejection’ in the developed world: a rejection that climate change is a problem, of solutions to it, and of the institutions proposing them. Green rejection is strongest in the U.K. and Germany, where respondents were among the least engaged and optimistic about the challenge. In the U.S., respondents were by far the most confident and optimistic of all the developed economies surveyed.

With regard to whose responsibility it is to tackle the problem, a clear majority of all respondents across countries and age groups—68 per cent—believe that governments should be playing the leading role, compared with NGOs, companies and individuals. However only 33 per cent felt that governments play this role today.