Brussels -- Three years on from the most recent similar Eurobarometer survey, it is clear that, despite the economic crisis, Europeans’ concern about the environment has not diminished. In an overwhelming consensus, 95 % of the 28.000 interviewed citizens said that protecting the environment is important to them personally and many think more can be done.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: 'It is good to see such solid and widespread support for the protection of the environment, even in difficult times. People are particularly concerned about air and water pollution, chemicals and waste, and they feel that more must be done by everyone to protect the environment.'
Environmental protection makes economic sense
A strong majority of people share the view that the efficient use of natural resources (79 %) and the protection of the environment (74 %) can boost economic growth. While 80% consider that the economy influences their quality of life, 75 % think the state of the environment has a similar impact and 77 % of EU citizens believe that environmental problems have a direct effect on their daily lives. They worry most about pollution – air (56 %) and water pollution (50 %) ranking highest – as well as waste generation and the depletion of natural resources.
An increasing number (59 %) believe that social and environmental factors should be as important as economic criteria in measuring progress in their country. In relation to the spending and investment of public authorities, 59 % are of the opinion that the public authorities of their country should favour environmentally-friendly considerations over cost.
Environmental responsibility on the rise
Even more citizens than in 2011 (75 %) say they are ready to buy environmentally-friendly products, even if it means paying a little more. A vast majority (93 %) think that big polluters should make good the environmental damage they cause. Introducing heavier fines for offenders was deemed the most effective way of tackling environmental problems.
85 % of Europeans believe they have a role to play in protecting the environment. Most are adopting environmentally-friendly actions and behaviour. Separation of waste for recycling (72 %), cutting down energy consumption (52 %) and cutting down water consumption (37 %) were the three most common activities. While more citizens feel well informed about the environment in general, 39 % feel they lack information about the health impact of chemicals used in everyday products.
A substantial majority of people feel that more can be done to protect the environment. 77 % feel that big companies and industry are not doing enough; 70 % think the same of their national government. 65 % believe that citizens themselves could do more. The top-priorities identified for citizens wishing to protect the environment were to sort waste for recycling (54 %), reduce home energy consumption (39 %) and use public transport (39 %).
Support for EU action
77 % of EU citizens agree that European environmental legislation is necessary to protect the environment in their country and six out of ten think that environmental decisions should be taken jointly within the EU. 79 % also think that the EU should be able to check that environmental laws are being applied correctly in their country. 84 % want more EU funding to be allocated to supporting environmentally-friendly activities. In addition, a majority of citizens (56 %) want the EU to do even more to protect the environment.
The latest Eurobarometer survey on the environment comes three years after the previous report on the subject. It was carried out in the 28 Member States of the European Union between 26 April and 11 May 2014, to assess the perceptions, attitudes and practices of EU citizens towards the environment. 27,998 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face in their mother tongue on behalf of the Directorate-General for Environment.