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Expand chart
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

New polling indicates pervasive doubts among people in 17 advanced economies about whether China and the U.S. — the world’s two largest carbon emitters — will take meaningful steps to fight climate change.

Why it matters: The Pew Research Center survey released ahead of a critical United Nations climate summit in just over six weeks reveals public skepticism over whether multilateral negotiations will succeed in confronting the problem.

  • The polling also finds that most citizens give their countries modestly positive grades for tackling climate change.

How it works: The surveys were conducted from March 12 to May 26, among 16,254 adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Polling in the U.S., of 2,596 adults, ran Feb. 1-7, 2021.

  • The polling has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 to 4.4 percentage points for other countries, and 2.5 percentage points for the U.S.

Details: The European Union’s climate change response is viewed favorably by citizens of most of the economies surveyed.

  • The United Nations, where Secretary-General António Guterres is rallying countries to slash emissions, gets high marks, with a median of 56% of respondents seeing its efforts favorably.

Yes, but: In a yellow light for the climate summit in Glasgow, a median of 52% of the public in advanced economies — which are collectively responsible for the majority of the world’s historical emissions — say they lack confidence that a multilateral response will succeed. Whereas 46% are optimistic that nations can respond to climate change through international cooperation.

  • Respondents in France, Sweden and Belgium have the greatest skepticism of multilateral approaches, whereas optimism is highest in South Korea and Singapore.
  • In just 12 of the 17 countries studied, half or more think their society has done a good job dealing with the climate challenge, with more than 1 in 10 describing such work as “very good” in just five countries, including New Zealand and the U.K.

The intrigue: The least faith is reserved for the biggest emitters — the U.S. and China.

  • China almost universally gets worse marks for its climate efforts, with a median of 78% across the 17 publics surveyed describing the country’s handling of climate change as “bad” to “very bad.” That compares to 61% with the same judgment of the U.S.

Our thought bubble: Skepticism of the multilateral response to warming is understandable. The climate summit is the 26th such meeting since a U.N. climate treaty entered into force in 1994, and emissions have only gone up, while warming's impacts dramatically escalated.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 16, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on sustainable investing

On Thursday, December 16th, Axios energy reporter Ben Geman and business reporter Hope King dove into the forces driving investments in climate tech and looked ahead to the ESG trends shaping the market for 2022, featuring Moody’s Climate Solutions global head Emilie Mazzacurati and S&P Global Sustainable1 president Richard Mattison.

Emilie Mazzacurati discussed the most tangible outcomes from the COP26 climate conference, how these outcomes will impact sustainable investment, and how to ensure corporate sustainability commitments are actually implemented.

  • On the impact of companies setting forth climate pledges: “Setting aside those technical aspects, we found that even the companies that have set targets are not going far enough and that if all those companies reduced emissions, they would be on track supportive of a world going towards 2.1 degrees Celsius on average. So still well above where we want to be.”
  • On transparency to prevent corporate greenwashing: “So the type of things that we might look at over and beyond the actual targets themselves are governance. Is there a board-level oversight of climate risk? What’s the role of the management? Is climate integrated into risk management?”

Richard Mattison described the state of the current climate investment environment, the makeup of upcoming standard disclosure requirements, and the best and worst case scenarios in measuring companies’ progress on their sustainability commitments.

  • On the need for more specificity in climate investment pledges: “I don’t think we really have enough understanding of what the near-term plans need to look like. We don’t even know what a good transition plan looks like…I think there’s a never before seen scale of collaboration, in particular between banks, asset managers, and companies on really what a good transition plan looks like towards net zero.”
  • On best case scenarios for progress on sustainability commitments: “There is robustness and credibility in the processes used to gather that information and interpret that information. And that process means that the information is actually at the core of a scale flow of capital towards sustainable outcomes, and that we are starting to see a real difference in the real world with respect to some of those climate disasters that I was talking about before.”

Axios HQ General Manager Jordan Zaslav hosted a View from the Top segment with Head of iShares Americas at Blackrock, Armando Senra, who spoke on the impact of ESG commitments on the investment landscape.

  • “When you think of ESG, environmental, social, and corporate governance, those factors have a real impact in asset pricing in capital allocations. And therefore, what is really important there is to understand that as you’re building your portfolio, this is not just about your values or your preferences. This is about the outcomes that you are expecting in your portfolio and how you have to account for the impact and the opportunities that these factors will have in your portfolio.”

Thank you iShares for sponsoring this event.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Crime a top worry for Latinos

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos in partnership with Noticias Telemundo; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Latinos say crime and gun violence is their number two concern — behind COVID-19 and before immigration, social justice or voting rights — in our inaugural Axios-Ipsos Latino Poll in partnership with Noticias Telemundo.

Why it matters: This finding and others in our poll could be warning signs for President Biden and his party next year, even as respondents by a two-to-one margin prefer generic Democratic midterm candidates over Republicans.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.