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Climate change key concern for European citizens



The 2008 Eurobarometer survey indicates climate change has become a key issue for European citizens, and highlights the need for better information and greater action at national and EU level

The September 2008 edition of the Eurobarometer highlights European citizens’ serious concerns regarding climate change. The survey provides an interesting insight into the minds of the general public, while also pointing out the areas that need to be addressed by both national- and EU-level institutions.

While many feel well informed of the causes, consequences and means to fight climate change, there still remains a significant proportion of people who feel poorly informed on the issue. A lack of sufficient information on the key aspects of the topic is indicated by the fact that 30% still believe CO2 emissions have only a marginal impact on the development of climate change. This figure is matched by a further 15% who do not know if such emissions have any impact.

Levels of information

The majority of survey participants believed the process of climate change could be stopped, and 61% said they had taken some form of action to help. The incidence of individuals taking action was far more prevalent among those sections of the population that felt well informed on the issue. Conversely, a lack of information was cited as a key factor preventing those that did not take action from doing so.

Across the general population, women and citizens with less formal education were the two social groups that felt the least informed on climate change. At the opposite end of the spectrum, white-collar workers and professionals felt better informed.

The study clearly indicates Europeans feel corporations and industries, individual citizens, national governments and the EU should all change their behaviour in response to the issue. The EU was the entity least often cited as not doing enough to combat climate change. One reason that was frequently given for citizens failing to adopt practices that might improve the situation was that they felt corporations, industries and governments should change their habits first.

When they did adopt actions to reduce climate changing effects, survey participants mainly adopted practices that did not need significant personal or financial investment. The most common were waste separation and reductions in energy, water and disposable item consumption. While a high proportion admitted the main reason for adopting such methods was due to resulting cost benefits, the majority felt a civic duty to protect the environment and believed in the validity of a common effort against climate change.

Reaction to EU targets

With regard to the EU's targeted goals of reducing emissions and increasing renewably sourced energy, both by 20%, the majority felt these figures were about right or even perhaps too modest. This indicates that the majority of the population feel that the targets are attainable. However, many also did not know what measures the EU had undertaken in relation to this issue.

More information:

Europeans’ attitudes towards climate change (Eurobarometer special report): http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_300_full_en.pdf [3 MB] Deutsch français

‘You control climate change’ campaign

The European Commission launched its climate-change awareness-raising campaign in 2006. The campaign challenges individuals to make small changes to their daily routine in order to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. It offers a wealth of practical and easy-to-do tips while aiming to give people a sense of personal responsibility and empowerment and help them contribute to the fight against climate change. The campaign also targets secondary school pupils, who will be encouraged to sign a pledge to reduce their CO2 emissions and track their efforts. The aim is to show that simple everyday actions lead collectively to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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