Increased European public concern about climate change & awareness of economic benefits of action

October 10th, 2011 by European Commission

More than two Europeans in three see climate change as a very serious problem and almost 80% consider that taking action to combat it can boost the economy and jobs, a special Eurobarometer survey published on 7 October 2011 shows.

(click on report cover to download to computer)

The poll carried out in June 2011, found that the European public is more concerned about climate change than it was in 2009 – and that climate change remains a greater worry than the economic situation.

The survey also shows a widespread expectation in the 27 member states that the European Union will become a climate-friendly, low-carbon society by the middle of this century.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, said: “This is encouraging news! This survey shows that the citizens of Europe can see that the economic challenges are not the only challenges we face. It shows that the clear majority of Europeans expect their politicians and business leaders to address the serious climate challenge now.

It is striking that the public is even more concerned about climate change than it was in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference. In particular, the fact that more than 3 out of 4 Europeans see improving energy efficiency as a way to create new jobs is a strong signal to Europe’s decision makers. I see this poll very much as an encouragement also for us in the Commission to continue fighting for ambitious and concrete climate action in Europe. ”

The key results of the survey are as follows:

  • 68% of those polled considered climate change a very serious problem (up from 64% in 2009). Altogether 89% saw it as a serious problem (either ‘very serious’ or ‘fairly serious’). On a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most), the seriousness of climate change was ranked at 7.4, against 7.1 in 2009.
  • Overall, climate change was seen as the second most serious problem facing the world, after poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water (considered as a single issue). One in five people surveyed considered climate change the single most serious problem. 51% (up from 47% in 2009) said it was either the most or one of the most serious problems, compared with 45% who said this about the economic situation.
  • 78% agreed that fighting climate change and improving energy efficiency can boost the EU economy and jobs – up from 2009 when 63% agreed that climate action could boost economy and jobs. In no Member State did fewer than two in three support this view.
  • 68% support basing taxation to a greater extent on energy use, with a majority in every Member State in favour of such a shift.
  • The public expects Europe to become a climate-friendly society by 2050, a vision the Commission outlined earlier this year in its Roadmap to a competitive low-carbon economy.2 Almost nine out of 10 (88%) expect that in 2050 Europe will use more renewable energy, 87% that Europe will be more energy-efficient and 73% that cars will be powered more efficiently than today.
  • Tackling climate change is seen as the responsibility mainly of national governments, the EU and business. Only 21% considered they had a personal responsibility, but a further 23% spontaneously suggested that all actors, including themselves, shared a collective responsibility.
  • Just over half of those polled (53%) said they had taken some kind of action to combat climate change over the previous six months, but the proportion turned out to be higher when they were asked which specific actions they had taken: 66% respondents stated that they reduced and recycled household waste, the most common action taken.
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