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24th Jul 2021

Europeans ready to 'green' their lifestyles, study finds

  • The majority of Europeans (64 percent) are committed to using public transport over driving their own private cars to fight climate change (Photo: Ivan Rigamonti)

Europeans rank irreversible climate change as one of the biggest threats to the continent, over terrorism and unemployment, a new study by the European Investment Bank (EIB) revealed on Tuesday (14 January).

And two-thirds of people in Europe, the US and China think their individual behaviour can help tackle climate change, but Europeans and Chinese are more willing to change their living standards to limit global warming than Americans - especially regarding their transport habits.

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"Those individual climate actions set the social and economic trends of our societies that will help tackle climate change," said the EIB vice-president for climate action and the environment, Emma Navarro.

"Establishing the right infrastructure, incentives and framework are essential to empower citizens to act for the environment: we can only succeed if we are in this together," she added.

Less plane, more train

The transport sector represents about a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities.

According to the European Commission, a 90 percent reduction in transport emissions will be needed by 2050 to achieve climate-neutrality.

To do so, a significant portion of Europeans (75 percent) intends to fly less for holidays, while more than one-third of Europeans say they are already doing so.

People in Croatia, Slovakia and Germany are particularly committed to flying less and travelling more by train, the study shows.

Meanwhile, this figure increases to 94 percent in China - but it is only 69 percent in the US.

In Europe, emissions from aviation account for about three percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, but they represent more than two percent of global emissions.

However, the commission wants to reduce this figure with different proposals contained in the "new growth strategy" for the EU - the Green Deal.

Likewise, the EIB survey indicates that 64 percent of Europeans are committed to using public transport over driving their own private cars, while 93 percent of Chinese citizens say they are already opting for public transport for environmental purposes.

However, less than half of Americans (49 percent) are willing to use more public transport.

Additionally, a very small share of Europeans (three percent) and Americans (five percent) say they have replaced their car with an electric model, while one-quarter of Chinese citizens state that they have already done so.

Although the amount of alternatively-powered vehicles have increased during the past few years, electric and hybrid cars currently make up only 3.8 percent of the EU car fleet, according a report of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Environmental commitments at home

Differences among European, Chinese and Americans are also notable when it comes to environmental actions and behaviour at home.

The vast majority of Chinese citizens (91 percent) would heat their houses less in order to fight climate change compared with 78 percent of Europeans and 75 percent of Americans.

Likewise, more than half of Chinese citizens (58 percent) intend to switch to a green energy provider, compared to 45 percent of Europeans and 39 percent of Americans.

However, one-quarter of Europeans say they have already taken this step.

Europeans are more willing than the American and Chinese citizens to support local food producers - 83 percent of Europeans say they intend to buy only local food, compared to 77 percent of Chinese and 75 percent of Americans.

Also, 92 percent of Chinese and 79 percent of Europeans are committed to cut down red meat consumption, while only 68 percent of Americans are ready to do so.

A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the mitigation potential of plant-based diets for climate change.

According to Hans-Otto Pörtner, IPCC climatologist, "it would be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect".

The EIB Climate survey was based on more than 30,000 respondents from 27 September to 21 October in the 28 EU member states, the United States and China.

Feature

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Legal action related to climate change is set to grow considerably in the next few years - especially after a largely-overlooked ruling over Christmas by a Dutch court forced the government to reduce its emission by 25 percent by 2020.

Commission's €1 trillion bet on green deal financing

The European Commission unveiled on Tuesday its sustainable investment plan to put Europe on track to reach the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal - while helping coal-producing regions to move away from fossil fuels.

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

The Nordic electricity market is an example of successful market integration plus climate action, as the share of sustainable energy keeps growing, the European Commission said. However, the decarbonisation of the transport sector remains a challenge.

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