The latest survey by the European Commission shows that the environment is an important personal concern to more than 90% of respondents in every single Member State. A large majority of Europeans agree that using natural resources more efficiently and protecting the environment can boost economic growth in the EU.
The report also contains a strong mandate for EU action: despite the economic crisis, almost 9 in 10 Europeans think EU funding should be allocated to support environmentally friendly activities. There is also massive support for legislation at the EU level: more than 8 in 10 Europeans agree that EU legislation is necessary to protect the environment in their country.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Many of these trends show that Europeans are more strongly engaged with the environment than ever before. And these are actions, and not just good intentions: 2 in 3 Europeans say they have separated waste for recycling in the last month, over half are trying to cut their energy consumption, 4 in 10 are trying to use fewer disposable goods, and greater numbers of Europeans are choosing more environmentally friendly forms of transport. The findings are also an important vindication of the European project. They offer unambiguous support for environmental legislation at the EU level."
Natural resources a growing concern
The survey reveals a growing awareness of the pressures on natural resources. When asked about solutions, 8 in 10 want businesses to do more to use natural resources more efficiently, more than 7 in 10 want nationals governments to do more, and almost 7 in 10 think citizens themselves should do more.
When asked about their top five environmental concerns, more than 3 in 10 Europeans now think about the depletion of natural resources (33%, up from 26% in 2007), 41% think about water pollution, 33% think about the growth of waste (up from 24%), and 19% think about consumption (up from 11%). Concern for biodiversity loss, by contrast, remains low – only 22% think about the loss of species and habitats.
Mandates for action
Despite the economic crisis, 89% of Europeans think that more funding should be allocated to support protecting the environment.
81% support environmentally-focused legislation at the EU level as a necessary means of protecting the environment (- 1 point compared to 2007).
Almost 60% of Europeans think that environmentally friendly procurement procedures are the most effective way of tackling environmental problems, with less than 30% favouring solutions that are merely cost-effective.
Action and financial support beyond the EU borders also receives strong backing, with 79% believing that the EU should help to support non-EU countries to protect the environment.
While most Europeans feel reasonably well informed about the environment (60%, up from 55% in 2007), information deficits were identified in a number of areas. Some 50% of Europeans feel that current labelling systems do not allow them to identify environmentally friendly goods with confidence. Citizens would also like to be better informed about the impact of common chemicals on their health (40%), about the use of GMOs in farming (37%), agricultural pollution from pesticides and fertilisers, and about the depletion of natural resources (27%).
This survey was carried out in the 27 Member States of the European Union between 13 April and 8 May 2011. Some 26,825 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face in their mother tongue on behalf of DG Environment.