Climate Change is Top Global Concern, Public Expects Transparency on Climate Action, APCO Survey Finds

Climate change is the biggest emergency for people around the world, but they are divided on how to address it, according to APCO Worldwide’s inaugural global Climate Action Confidence Tracker, conducted in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Main findings of the survey include:

  • Climate change dominates global concerns. In a resounding revelation, 40% of individuals globally ranked climate change as their top concern.

  • Business and technology are vital to meet climate targets. A significant 70% of respondents agreed on the crucial role of scaling up business innovation and technology to meet Paris Agreement climate targets. This underscores the perceived importance of the private sector in driving sustainable solutions.

  • Demand for clarity and transparent frameworks urgently needed. Far from a feeling of “climate fatigue,” nearly 60% agreed that they do not hear enough from organizations or prominent individuals talking about climate change.

  • Incentives over penalties to accelerate business climate action. Opinions diverged on incentivizing good behavior or imposing penalties to accelerate business action. However, the majority agreed that the countries that cause the most greenhouse gas emissions should pay more to fix the problem.

  • Employee loyalty linked to corporate climate responsibility. The survey found that employees would be more loyal to and willingly recommend companies championing climate action, emphasizing the importance of corporate responsibility in retaining and attracting talent.

As COP 28 is at the door, understanding and leveraging public sentiment is vital to shape government and business actions and communication strategies, and to gain support for inevitable trade-offs needed to meet climate targets. This study measured perception on progress toward climate goals, the contributions of different actors to the goals and the importance of climate communication in building support for further action.

The survey also found that fewer than half of the public understands terminology surrounding climate change. There is an enormous opportunity for governments and companies to bring the public with them as they reconfigure their economies and business models to meet key climate-change targets. The public and private sectors are at a time-sensitive, critical moment, with the chance to reframe how they talk about their climate actions to be more inclusive of nonexperts.

“As the science tells us, it’s becoming increasingly urgent to do something about climate change together, as citizens of the planet,” APCO Founder and Executive Chair Margery Kraus said. “But it is also clear our efforts to do so are falling far short. Now comes the hard part: garnering the financial and technological resources to implement change and communicating effectively to motivate buy-in from all stakeholders. This survey shows we need a more honest and open debate across all parts of society if we are to tackle the greatest challenge of our time.”

Executing decarbonization strategies is complex and costly, requiring strategic vision, bold action and clear communication among all stakeholders. Communication emerges as a particularly important factor, as the public support for climate-related actions increases significantly when better informed. Common, standardized and transparent frameworks are required to help track and communicate company performance on climate-related issues to the public.

Dominic Waughray, executive vice president at WBCSD, underscored this need, stating, “the consumer signal identified by this survey is clear: a common and transparent framework that helps society to easily recognize and reward ambitious climate-related business performance and accountability would be greatly welcomed.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • There’s a level of optimism among people that the world will achieve climate-related targets-55% say they feel reaching global net zero targets by 2050 is definitely or probably achievable-but this level of confidence varies widely among regions.

  • Certain regions within the developing world have emerged as the most optimistic on net zero targets. By contrast, Europe is the only region in which fewer than half of people believe in the achievability of global net zero targets.

  • The public sees international organizations (53%) and nongovernmental organizations (52%) as doing enough. But the public says only 39% of large companies and 43% of their own governments are doing enough to progress toward 2050 net zero targets.

  • There’s strong buy-in to the concept of avoided emissions, but only if there’s an objective standard of measurement. Nearly three of four people say that they agree that avoided emissions measures feel like a good way to look at the impact companies have on the climate (73%).

  • Despite strong support for the idea of climate investments, the public does not support all types of tradeoffs in government spending. When presented with a list of potential tradeoff scenarios, the public shows the least support for reduced spending on health care (29%). On the other hand, public support for increased spending on climate-related initiatives is highest when it involves a tradeoff with defense spending (47%).

  • In every tradeoff scenario, informed people-whether evaluating spending by their government or their employer-indicated greater support than those not informed.

  • Employees show a similar inclination to support an increase in their companies’ climate investments when they are well informed. Nearly half of those who feel informed (47%) say they would support increased climate spending even if it means lower increases in salary, while only 33 percent of non-informed employees support this tradeoff.

APCO Insight, the global research division of APCO, conducted the online survey across 39 countries globally from August 15-23, 2023, in partnership with WBCSD. A total of 24,300 online adults participated in the survey, with an average of 600 respondents per market and a total sample of 1500 in the United States. The countries surveyed are Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

To find out more about the Climate Action Confidence Tracker, please visit

About APCO Worldwide

APCO Worldwide is an advisory and advocacy communications consultancy helping leading public and private sector organizations be catalysts for progress by navigating the challenges of today, acting with agility, anticipating social risk and building organizational reputations, relationships and solutions to succeed. APCO is an independent and majority women-owned business.

For more information, please visit

About the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a global community of over 220 of the world’s leading businesses driving systems transformation for a better world in which 9+ billion people can live well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century. Together, we transform the systems we work in to limit the impact of the climate crisis, restore nature and tackle inequality. We accelerate value chain transformation across key sectors and reshape the financial system to reward sustainable leadership and action through a lower cost of capital. Through the exchange of best practices, improving performance, accessing education, forming partnerships, and shaping the policy agenda, we drive progress in businesses and sharpen the accountability of their performance.

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