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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 01:10 GMT
A green lesson for politicians
By Matt McGrath
BBC World Service environment reporter

Oil site near Tyumen, western Siberia
Russians appear wary of paying more for their energy
While a BBC poll suggests people worldwide are willing to contemplate serious changes to their lifestyles to combat global warming, the issue of energy taxes appears to be very sensitive.

The president of the company that carried out the poll, Doug Miller, says that people are willing to pay more tax on coal and oil if they feel it is being used to combat climate change.

"People are not ready to pay extra either in prices or in taxes if they feel it's simply to regulate their demand," he says.

"However this poll shows that people are willing to pay extra tax if they were convinced that that tax would be used to address climate change through energy efficiency improvements or cleaner fuels."

Doug Miller believes that the poll contains some important trends for politicians.

"The principal message for political leaders is that they are leaving a significant amount on the table by not asking their citizens to play more of a role [in combating climate change]," he says.

"Many politicians are quite hesitant to put any burden, especially a tax burden, on their populations but this poll clearly shows that people are much more ready to endure their share of the burden than most politicians grant."

Food for thought

The poll suggests that in Italy and Russia significant numbers of people believe that increases in the price of energy will not be necessary.

The pollsters believe there are strong local reasons for these results.

Energy costs in Italy are amongst the highest in Europe and consumers in Russia have faced rising energy prices in recent years even thought the country is a major exporter of oil and gas.

But according to Doug Millar, these exceptions do not impact the real strength of the poll.

"The major surprise and power of this data is its pervasiveness across the world - the real story is that it's very rare to get such a pervasive picture," he says.

The poll comes just a few weeks before negotiations are due to begin in Indonesia on a new international treaty to follow on from the Kyoto protocol.

Doug Millar believes that the negotiators should look very carefully at the findings of the survey.

"This poll suggests that there is a moment in time here where the politicians can do both a deal between rich and poor countries and a deal in terms of allocating a cost for carbon that they miss at their peril," he says.

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