Ipsos Reid released a poll today showing that 66 percent of British Columbians say protecting the environment is more important than economic growth. But is it really a zero-sum game when it comes to the environment and economy? Is there really a direct trade-off?

Last Friday in the New York Times, Nobel Prizing-winning economist Paul Krugman argued that a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions could actually spur business investment and mitigate global warming at the same time.

“Right now, the biggest problem facing our economy is plunging business investment,” Krugman wrote. “Businesses see no reason to invest, since they’re awash in excess capacity, thanks to the housing bust and weak consumer demand.

“But suppose that Congress were to mandate gradually tightening emission limits, starting two or three years from now,” he went on. “This would have no immediate effect on prices. It would, however, create major incentives for new investment — investment in low-emission power plants, in energy-efficient factories and more.”

In other words, environmental regulations could do more to spur business investment than low interest rates and other “easy money” measures of central banks.

Here’s more details about the Ipson Reid Poll:

NEWS RELEASE | Majority of British Columbians Say Protecting the Environment Should be Given Priority Over Economic Growth

Vancouver, BC – Ipsos Reid, a sponsor of EPIC – the Sustainable Living Expo, released a poll today, revealing that despite the state of the economy, British Columbians feel the environment takes priority.

Two-thirds of British Columbians (66%) say protecting the environment should be given priority over economic growth; this however was not unanimous among respondents. One third of British Columbians (34%) remained concerned and stated that economic growth should be given priority over the environment even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Furthermore, British Columbians are still doing their part by making lifestyle changes to be more eco-conscious during the economic downturn. Currently, two-thirds (67%) of individuals have spent more on a product or service because it claims to be environmentally friendly. Compared to a year ago, this measure is down only two percentage points, suggesting that British Columbians are still thinking and acting green despite budget concerns.

The vast majority of British Columbians are already doing the “little things” in their every day actions to help the environment. Some of these include combining different errands to use less fuel (93%), sending documents electronically instead of printing on paper (90%), using energy saving light bulbs (88%) and using cloth bags instead of grocery bags (86%).

British Columbians are also getting more involved in global movements, in celebration of the 39th annual Earth Day last week, seven out of ten (67%) of BC residents planned to do something special for the environment or take part in activities. Some of those activities included taking an alternative form of transportation and participating in a community clean up.

Additional survey results will be presented at EPIC – the Vancouver Sun Sustainable Living Show on May 8th-10th at the New Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre (999 Canada Place). Ipsos is proud to be a sponsor of EPIC, Western Canada’s ONLY green consumer tradeshow and eco-marketplace. Greening your life is easy – all you need is a little education and inspiration. Join this three-day celebration of smart living and surround yourself with 300+ exhibitors, inspiring ideas, exciting entertainment and forward-thinking businesses. For more information and to purchase tickets to the event, please visit www.epicvancouver.com

These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid online poll conducted between April 21 and April 27, 2009 with a representative sample of 3340 adult British Columbians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population of British Columbians been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. The polling was conducted using Ipsos Reid’s “Voice of the West Interactive Forum” – an online panel of more than 6,000 British Columbians who have been randomly recruited to match the overall characteristics of the adult residents of the province.

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Catherine Dawson
Vice President
Ipsos Reid
(778) 373-5003
catherine.dawson@ipsos.com