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Public perceptions of low carbon economy development in smaller cities in China Cheng, Zhaohua


Low carbon economies have been proposed in many areas of the world as a strategy to mitigate climate change, including in the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting country, China. While much effort has been put into developing low carbon economies in major cities in China, less attention has been paid to smaller cities and counties. The goal of this exploratory research is to develop a preliminary understanding of citizens’ perceptions of low carbon economies and their attitude towards low carbon policies in smaller cities (or counties) in China. A questionnaire-based cross-sectional survey was conducted in Fuding City and Zherong County in Fujian Province (southeastern China), with three sub-populations - general public, community residents, and government employees. Results indicated several possible knowledge gaps and inconsistencies in perceptions about climate change and the low carbon economy among citizens. However, citizens did indicate high levels of support for developing a low carbon economy in local areas. Binary and multinomial logistic regression models developed in this study indicated that citizens’ knowledge of low carbon economies and their level of concern about climate change were significant factors influencing their level of support for a low carbon economy. In general, citizens with more knowledge of low carbon economies and a greater level of concern about climate change showed greater support for developing a low carbon economy. However, greater knowledge and more supportive attitudes did not necessarily lead to behavioural changes. This research discovered an ‘attitude-behaviour’ gap between someone showing greater support for low carbon policies and having less intention to change their behaviour (on average, respondents had tried three to four low carbon activities but were willing only to conduct one more low carbon activity to further lower their carbon footprint). Significant differences were found between the study areas and between different sub-populations, which suggested priorities for further engagement and social learning among the populations of smaller cities in China. Findings call for more effort to be put towards informing and engaging citizens in order to improve their understanding of low carbon economies and more closely align behaviours with attitudes in response to climate change.

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