Climate Change – Responsibility & Actions

The majority of New Zealanders (57%) have stated that if the government does not act now to combat climate change, it will be failing the people of New Zealand. Notably, just 37% of believe that the New Zealand government has a clear plan in place for how the government, businesses and people themselves are going to work together to tackle climate change, according to a new study from Ipsos.

The author(s)

  • Amanda Dudding Director, Public Affairs Research
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Key findings


  • In addition to the government being responsible for tackling climate change, New Zealanders also believe it is a shared responsibility, and businesses and individuals themselves play a crucial role.
  • New Zealanders are divided on the subject of climate change being a priority over economic recovery from COVID-19.
  • As a result of COVID-19, about one in four New Zealanders on average expect to do more to reduce food waste, use alternatives to a car, fly less often for holidays, restrict their shopping to just what they really need or work from home rather than commuting.
  • At an individual level, New Zealanders are more receptive towards measures such as saving water and energy, and recycling, but are less likely to avoid meat and dairy or replace flights with trains or buses.


Who will combat climate change?

New Zealanders acknowledge that everyone needs to participate in tackling climate change.


  • 57% of New Zealanders believe that the government needs to act now to combat climate change (up from 62% April 2020), otherwise it will be failing its citizens (65% global market average; 63% Australia).
  • However, fewer people feel the government has a clear plan in place to deal with climate change (37% New Zealand; 31% global market average; 29% Australia).
  • 60% of New Zealanders believe that businesses need to act now to combat climate change, otherwise they will be failing their employees and customers (68% global market average; 69% Australia).
  • 62% of New Zealanders believe that if individuals do not act to combat climate change, we will be failing future generations (72% global market average; 69% Australia).
  • Amongst New Zealanders, women, younger age groups and those with higher education levels feel a greater sense of urgency about ‘acting now’.


Climate change after COVID-19

As seen in most countries, New Zealanders are divided between the prioritisation of climate change (36%) and that of economic recovery from COVID-19 (36%).

When asked about how their behaviour may change once COVID-19 restrictions are removed, most New Zealanders anticipate that their environmental behaviours will remain the same.

New Zealanders under the age of 50 and those with higher education and income levels are more likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviour.


Other findings include:

  • 35% of New Zealanders are going to make more of an effort to avoid throwing away food.
  • 30% of New Zealanders will do more of buying only what they need.
  • 22%–26% will work from home rather than commute, do errands and journeys by foot, go on holidays which don’t require flying and buy things they need second hand.


What personal changes do New Zealanders expect to make?


Most New Zealanders (66%) state that they understand what actions they need to take to play their part in tackling climate change. But across all the climate change–saving actions, New Zealanders are below the global market average in terms of planning to make changes over the next year. Many believe they are already doing enough.

  • In terms of current practices and specific changes in the next year, more than half of New Zealanders already claim to be recycling and saving energy at home. About half have also indicated that in the next year they will be more likely to avoid buying products with a lot of packaging and new goods, and save water.
  • New Zealanders are divided on avoiding cars in favour of walking / cycling / public transport, with 36% claiming they are ‘likely to’ do it in the coming year and the same proportion state they are unlikely to do so. Currently only 23% are doing this.
  • There is a higher resistance amongst New Zealanders to consuming fewer meat and dairy products, with 51% have mentioning that they are unlikely to reduce dairy consumption and 42% are unlikely to reduce meat consumption. Also, more New Zealanders (37%) are unlikely to replace flying with trains and buses compared to those who are likely to do so (31%).


The author(s)

  • Amanda Dudding Director, Public Affairs Research