80% of Europeans agree tackling climate change boosts economic growth

Reading time: 3 minutes
5 March 2014

LONDON: Europeans have overwhelmingly expressed their support for greater EU action on climate change, according to a Eurobarometer opinion poll published yesterday.

Four out of five people in the European Union believe that fighting climate change, along with greater energy efficiency, can boost the economy and employment. This marks a slight increase on the last EU climate change poll--which was conducted in 2011--when 78% agreed.

Notably, in no Member State did fewer than 65% of respondents agree, and interestingly citizens of member states who suffered significantly from the global economic downturn were among the most likely to agree.

In Ireland 43% of respondents agreed, while in Spain and Greece the figures stood at 52% and 42% respectively. Similarly, seven in ten citizens believe that cutting fossil fuel imports from outside the EU could bring economic benefits.

The findings clearly indicate that there is a strong European consensus that climate change must urgently be addressed. 90% of EU citizens consider the rise in temperatures ‘a serious problem’, with a strong majority--69%--recognizing it as a 'very serious' problem, and 21% stating it is a 'fairly serious' problem.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, responded to the new data: ''The poll confirms that a clear majority of Europeans expect their politicians to tackle the climate challenge now. The citizens understand that climate change did not go away while their governments were busy handling the economic crisis. It is not either growth and competitiveness or the climate. It is both, it has to be both. I hope that EU leaders will listen and act accordingly at the European Council later this month when they will discuss our 2030 climate and energy proposals''

The poll figures confirm there is strong support for the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target of 27%. Indeed, 90% of respondents believe it is important that their government set targets to increase use of renewables by 2030, with 49% considering this 'very important'. Furthermore, 92% would like their governments to provide support for improving energy efficiency by 2030.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, said: "There is not a choice to make between good economics and climate protection: cost-effective climate action is indeed good economics. I am very encouraged that European citizens recognize that too. This poll sends a strong signal to EU leaders to take bold climate action for a sustainable economic recovery. And it is an encouragement also for us in the Commission to continue fighting for ambitious climate action in Europe."

The European Council is expected to address its 2030 climate change framework when leaders meet on March 20-21. CEO of The Climate Group, Mark Kenber, believes this forum provides a unique chance to act on the demands of European citizens. "EU ministers should take the opportunity when they meet in March to increase the target. Even if an increase was conditional upon a strong 2015 global deal, it would send an important signal of intent to other governments as well as business and investors."

By Alana Ryan

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