Pollution Probe, in partnership with Royal Roads University, has released the results of its Trust in Energy Transition survey. As new net-zero policies continue to be rolled out across Ontario, this survey reveals public sentiment around the province’s energy transition plans and the entities involved in reducing emissions.

Policy support and trust are key in garnering public backing for the energy transition, especially as Canadians will need to make significant changes in order for 2050 emission targets to be met. This report offers unique insights into public sentiment on proposed energy transition pathways, providing policymakers with key intelligence that can be used to avoid missteps as we transition to net-zero.

“Net-zero policies need public support in order to be successful. Collaboration is essential; with this information, we hope that policymakers are better situated to encourage pathway adoption by fostering open and transparent discussions, engaging trusted communities and entities and sharing success stories,” says Richard Carlson, director of energy for Pollution Probe.

Key takeaways

A 25-minute online survey was conducted via Leger Opinion, polling 1,620 respondents across Ontario. Survey questions measured both public support for and comfort with chosen policies; their level of trust for the entities–including federal, provincial and municipal governments, utilities, private sector firms, or public-interest stakeholders like NGOs or academics/scientists–involved in their development and execution; sentiment on entity competency; and who should be responsible for funding programs to reduce energy use in Ontario.

Some key findings include:

  • Pathways for reconsideration: Respondents showed low levels of support for oil and gas, and electrification pathways—a policy choice that tends to be promoted in net-zero studies.
  • Trusted entities and actors: University researchers, scientists and non-profit organizations are the most trusted energy actors. Mainstream media and oil and gas companies have the lowest level of trust.
  • Who gets the bill?: Most survey respondents believe energy companies should be responsible for investing in energy transitions, while 35 per cent believe the government should take the lead through taxation.
  • Preference for low levels of inconvenience: Respondents are more likely to support energy transition policies that they believe will not negatively impact them by increasing costs or causing inconvenience. This echoes Ontarian support for RNG, considering 76 per cent of Ontarians rely on natural gas for heating and are familiar with it.
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“Pollution Probe is pleased to release the results of our survey highlighting public support and trust in Ontario’s climate and energy policies,” Christopher Hilkene, chief executive officer at Pollution Probe. “By better understanding where the public stands on both proposed energy pathways and the entities involved in their transition, we are in a better position to create net-zero policies that are not only approved and trusted by Ontarians, but something they’re excited to adopt. Only by working together can we accelerate our transition to a net-zero economy.”

This project was made possible thanks to funding and support from a Partnership Engage Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant.

The full report is available in the links below, including key findings and recommendations for next steps:  https://www.pollutionprobe.org/earning-trust-in-the-transition/

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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