Australians want the government to plan for an orderly phase down of coal use

Australians are becoming increasingly concerned that climate change is leading to worse bushfires and major floods and want the government to plan for a phase down of coal use, according to a survey of community attitudes to be released on Tuesday.

The 2019 Climate of the Nation report, to be launched by the Australia Institute and Independent federal MP Zali Steggall, shows four out of five people (81 per cent) fear climate change resulting in more floods and fires.

Steam rises from Victoria's Yallourn power plant. Picture: Getty Images

Steam rises from Victoria's Yallourn power plant. Picture: Getty Images

Much of eastern Australia is currently in the grip of crippling drought and firefighters in NSW and Queensland are battling one of the worst starts to the bushfire season on record.

Australia's greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise during the first quarter of 2019, according to the government's latest greenhouse gas emissions report, but remain down significantly since peaking in 2007.

Of the nearly 2000 people surveyed nationally, 68 per cent were in favour of moving away from coal and a similar proportion supported a 2050 zero net emissions target along the lines of that recently adopted by the United Kingdom.

The report, which has been measuring community attitudes on the issue since the now defunct Climate Institute first released its results in 2007, also found more than 70 per cent would use less electricity during peak periods if paid to do so.

Australia Institute's climate and energy program director Richie Merzian said the results showed Australians wanted their government to do more to address climate change.

"The use of dubious carry-over credits from the Kyoto Protocol will be considered at the next UN Climate Conference in Chile in December 2019 and Australia could find itself isolated in defending their use, which is considered against the spirit of the Paris Agreement by New Zealand, the UK, Germany and many others," Mr Merzian said.

"Whether or not Prime Minister Morrison attends the Climate Summit in New York [later this month], Australia will come under pressure to defend five years of rising national emissions, as a result of growing fossil fuel extraction and exports," he said.

The Prime Minister's office was asked if he intended to attend the Climate Summit but did not respond by deadline.

Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change leading to worse fires and floods. Picture: Getty Images

Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change leading to worse fires and floods. Picture: Getty Images

Despite a $500 million pledge to help its neighbours deal with the impact of climate change at last month's Pacific Leaders Forum some regional leaders likened Australia's attitude to that of an abusive family member after refusing to commit to a phase down of coal use.

In February Australia's largest coal miner Glencore announced it would cap its global thermal coal production on environmental grounds after pressure from investors. BHP has also flagged its intention to exit the thermal coal industry.

"This latest report shows that Australians support far more ambitious climate and energy policies than the federal government is currently delivering," Ms Steggall said.

Australia is currently on track to meet or exceed its 2020 renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt-hours, or 23.5 per cent of total electricity production, by 2020. The Abbott government scaled that target back from 41,000 gigawatt hours in 2015.

"Australians are rightly concerned about more extreme heat waves, droughts and bushfires and they want the Morrison government to show leadership on climate change and do more to prepare for the impacts that are already locked in," Ms Steggall said.