Brussels, 29 April 2005
Europeans want policy makers to consider the environment as important as economic and social policies
For Europeans, a healthy environment is as important to their quality of life as the state of the economy and social factors, according to a new Eurobarometer survey. The environmental issues that citizens worry most about are water pollution, man-made disasters, climate change, air pollution and chemicals. The survey is also the first to examine attitudes towards the environment across the enlarged EU-25.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This survey is proof that European citizens care greatly about their environment, and believe that it is intrinsically linked to their quality of life. The results give a clear mandate to the Commission to continue working to deliver a high level of environmental protection. Eurobarometer findings also confirm that the public shares the Commission’s conviction that a strong environmental policy can be an engine for innovation and growth.”
The large majority of EU citizens (88% of respondents) believe that policymakers should take account of environmental concerns when developing policies in other areas such as economy and employment. This view is expressed most strongly in the new Member States. Asked to rate the influence of economic, social and environmental factors on their quality of life, 72% of citizens said environmental factors influenced it “very much” or “quite a lot”. Economic factors were described in this way by 78%, and social factors ranked as high as environmental (72%).
The results confirm the findings of a February 2005 Eurobarometer poll on the Lisbon Agenda which concluded that the vast majority of people consider that environmental protection policies are above all an incentive for innovation (64%) and not an obstacle to economic performance (20%). This poll also revealed that European Union citizens give priority to protecting the environment over economic competitiveness (63% compared with 24% who disagree).
Citizens perceive the European Union (33% vs. 30% in 2002) and national governments (33% stable) as the best levels for environmental decision-making.
The main environmental concerns of Europeans are those that directly affect their lives. Five priorities stand out – water pollution (47%), man-made disasters such as oil spills and industrial accidents (46%), climate change and air pollution (both at 45%), and chemicals (35%). However, there are some significant differences between the former EU-15 and the ten new Member States (EU-10). For example, climate change is the number one issue in the EU-15 and only on rank 7 in the EU-10.
Asked if they feel sufficiently informed about environmental issues, 54% of respondents feel well informed whereas 44% feel they are badly informed. The two issues where respondents feel the greatest lack of information is the health impact of chemicals (41%) and GMOs (40%).
When it comes to sources of environmental information, citizens most trust environmental associations (42% vs. 48% in 2002), followed by scientists (32% versus 35% in 2002) and television (27% vs. 18% in 2002). Compared with the last survey in 2002, confidence in media has increased significantly.
The survey was carried out between 27 October and 29 November 2004 on a sample of approximately 1,000 citizens in each Member State.
A summary of the survey and the full report are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/barometer/index.htm