Brussels, 4 November 2013
Environment: More citizens calling for greater nature protection
Almost nine out of ten Europeans believe that biodiversity loss – the decline and possible extinction of animal species, flora and fauna, natural habitats and ecosystems in Europe – is a problem, according to a new survey.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "It's good to see that public opinion is increasingly aware of how important biodiversity is. I hope political leaders will translate this concern into tangible action to deliver what we have agreed in the EU Biodiversity Strategy."
Almost four in ten respondents (38 %) to the Flash Eurobarometer survey say that they already make a personal effort to protect biodiversity, a proportion that has increased slightly compared with 2007 (34 %).Eight in ten Europeans (78 %) say that they buy eco-friendly products, such as those that are organic or locally produced, to help fight biodiversity loss.
According to the survey responses, Europeans protect biodiversity for a variety of reasons:
A majority of Europeans – 65 % – totally agree that the EU should increase the areas where nature is protected in Europe. Much of the EU's efforts to protect biodiversity centre round Natura 2000, a vast network of protected areas that now covers almost 18 % of Europe's landmass. But the survey showed an upward trend in awareness of the network, but from a low level – around three quarters of respondents (73 %) have still not heard of the network. In addition, more than seven out of ten respondents totally agree that the EU should better inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity.
Biodiversity loss is an enormous challenge for the global environment, with species being lost at 100 to 1000 times the normal rate. More than one third of species assessed are threatened with extinction and an estimated 60% of the Earth's ecosystem services have been degraded in the last 50 years. Human activities are causing this loss, through land-use change, over-exploitation, unsustainable practices, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, which lead to habitat destruction, fragmentation and degradation and threatens the animal and plant populations that live in them. Climate change is also a factor.
In the EU around one in four species is currently threatened with extinction and 88% of fish stocks are over-exploited or significantly depleted. Europe has a strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. It includes six main targets and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal.
This survey – Flash Eurobarometer 379 – was carried out in the then 27 Member States of the European Union and Croatia between 26 and 28 June 2013. Some 25,537 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed via telephone in their mother tongue on behalf of the European Commission.
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