3E Intelligence

The most recent environmental Eurobarometer tells an interesting story when you are able to dig a bit deeper. Of course, it is useful for DG Environment to be able to “learn” from the survey that “Europeans put the environment centre stage” and that 64% of EU citizens feel that protecting the environment “must be given priority over economic competitiveness” (I can hear the grumbling in DG Enterprise).

EurActiv’s coverage does a good job summarising this “good news” but there are a few elements in the Eurobarometer which are easily overlooked.

The really bad news is that citizens still see no link between the problems of the environment and their own lifestyle. Their green attitudes are therefore not translated into greener actions or more sustainable ways of living. The reason for this is that they still think of the environment as a “nice to have” instead of understanding them in terms of the essential life-support services nature provides (in terms of resources and sinks for all our human and economic activities). When asked what they think of when talking about “the environment”, only 3% think about the natural resources we exploit.

Although citizens see that they have a responsibility, they prefer to blame industry which is then also reflected in how policy-makers deal with environmental issues. “The polluter pays” seems to mean for citizens pointing their finger to others instead of looking at their own impact. When asked what environmentally-friendly actions they are willing to undertake, only 17% says “use my car less”.

It should be clear from this survey that European citizens still have little knowledge and understanding of the ecological realities which underpin their (and their children’s) future on this planet. At a time when we need to mobilise the global (not just the European) citizenship for a giant eco-revolution to save this planet, this is very bad news indeed.

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  1. The Guardian had an article about British green energy tariffs. These are energy consumption plans by electricity and gas retail providers where the consumer can be sure to have a lower carbon footprint at some price premium. For instance, British Gas has such a plan which has a a price premium of around £86 a year, and it had attracted only a few hundred consumers. According to the 2007 figures from the energy regulator Ofgem, out of the 26m homes supplied with electricity, just 350,000 are signed up to a green or renewable tariff – although the vast majority of the British public is ‘green’ in words. If you claim that Americans are hypocrites about public representatives private lives, I think we Europeans tend to be very hypocritical about climate change.

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