These are the main conclusions of a special Eurobarometer survey of public attitudes about climate change commissioned by the European Parliament and the European Commission which was published today.
"The fact that many Europeans say that they do not have enough information, in particular on the actions that citizens could take, clearly indicates that we have to think about initiatives and measures to spread this knowledge more widely, especially among the most vulnerable groups of our population. The role of regional and local authorities in this task will be crucial," said Guido Sacconi, Chairman of the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Climate Change.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission, said: "Surveys of this kind are important components in our policy-making. It is striking to see that European citizens take the issue of climate change so seriously and it confirms our belief that continued, coherent EU action in this area is imperative".
Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for Environment, added: "The message is that a majority of Europeans supports the EU's targets or wants us to do even more. It is essential that the European Parliament and Council approve the Commission's climate and renewable energy proposals from January so Europe will be able to deliver fully on these targets and meet citizens' expectations."
Majority believes climate change can be solved
According to the survey, three-quarters of citizens take the problem of climate change very seriously. In total, 62% of respondents consider climate change to be one of the two most serious problems facing the world today. Only poverty scored higher, being placed in the top two by 68%. But even if Europeans widely recognise the seriousness of climate change, most (60%) believe it is not unstoppable and can be solved. A clear majority of 56% consider that fighting climate change can have a positive impact on the economy.
A substantial majority of Europeans consider the EU's targets on greenhouse gases and renewable energy to be about right or too modest. The three targets, set by EU leaders last year and to be met by 2020, are: a cut of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels; a cut of 30% if other developed countries commit to comparable reductions; and an increase in the share of renewable energy to 20%. Respectively, these targets are judged to be about right or too modest by 68%, 61% and 69% of respondents.
Lack of information
More than half of Europeans sampled feel informed about the causes (56%) and the consequences (56%) of climate change, and the ways of fighting it (52%). However, the proportion of citizens who feel poorly informed about the subject remains significant at more than four in ten. Lack of information is mentioned as an important reason for not taking action to combat climate change.
Action to tackle climate change
Europeans think that not enough is being done to combat climate change by corporations and industry (76%), citizens themselves (67%), their national governments (64%) and the EU (58%).
A clear majority (61%) confirm that they have taken some kind of action against climate change themselves. However, the types of action taken mainly involve little personal or financial effort such as separating waste or reducing consumption of energy, water or throw-away products. The main reason cited by respondents for not taking action against climate change is that they think governments, companies and industries should change their behaviour. Some 44% of those polled say they would be prepared to pay more for energy produced from sources that emit less greenhouse gases while 30% would not (26% did not respond).