Europeans remain very concerned about the environment, with climate change, air pollution and mounting waste as their biggest worries. While they are increasingly committed to individual action, a new poll reveals they expect the EU and national governments to do more.
The vast majority (94 %) of Europeans think protecting the environment is important and 87 % are personally committed to the task, according to the 2017 Special Eurobarometer. The EU is widely (83 %) seen as the best guarantee that EU environmental laws are correctly applied. The survey examines attitudes towards environmental issues, and the EU’s role in tackling them, as part of its wider actions on climate, sustainable development, energy and the circular economy.
This opinion poll confirms that people want us to deliver on green policies for a Europe that protects and empowers.
“The ever-increasing environmental awareness of Europeans makes me proud. This opinion poll confirms that people want us to deliver on green policies for a Europe that protects and empowers. That a growing number of citizens see a role for themselves shows that they are also walking the talk. Separating waste, buying local products, and cutting down their consumption of single-use plastic bags – all are examples of EU policies giving Europeans a platform to take individual action,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
More personal commitment
Europeans are doing their bit – separating waste for recycling (65 %), buying local products (43 %) and saving energy (35 %), etc. – and expect more in return. Over 60 % of Europeans believe neither national governments nor the EU are doing enough to protect the environment, and 67 % (up 7 % on 2014) think that decisions about protecting the environment should be made jointly within the EU. However, there are big variations across the EU: 4 in 5 people in the Netherlands and Germany support joint decision-making, but only every second person does in Croatia, Romania and the Czech Republic.
But polluters should not be let off the hook
The vast majority of Europeans (94 %) also believe ‘big polluters’ should pay for the damage caused, and call for stricter controls on industry and energy production (41 %) and on emissions from new vehicles (29 %).
R&D investment and technology (35 %), heavier fines (34 %), better information (28 %), behavioural education (26 %), and more financial incentives (27 %) are among the other solutions proposed by Europeans to tackle environmental problems.