Sixty-six per cent of Europeans would welcome stricter government measures to impose a change in personal behaviour to tackle climate change, according to a recent Climate Survey conducted by the European Investment Bank in August 2022.
Whilst climate change has sparked many debates concerning affordability, jobs loss and other socio-political concerns – which have been further exacerbated by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, a noticeable majority of Europeans seem to be in favour of greater climate action from policymakers, according to the research from the EU’s investment bank.
The percentage of respondents from some countries in Central and Eastern Europe favouring greater government intervention is slightly lower than the European average – although some countries go even further than the average. For example, three-quarters of Croatian respondents (75 per cent) were in favour of stricter government measures, with 69 per cent of respondents who said they would pay more for climate-friendly food, despite high concerns about record inflation.
Another respondent group above the European is Romania: 69 per cent of Romanian respondents were in favour of stricter government measures to impose a change in personal behaviour – with this percentage rising to 76 per cent in respondents under 30. Looking to Romania’s southern neighbour, Bulgaria which also recorded above European-average results: 69 per cent of Bulgarian respondents were in favour of stricter government measures to impose a change in personal behaviour (75 per cent of people under 30).
In the Baltic countries, support for stricter government restrictions remains high, albeit slightly below the European. 59 per cent and 58 per cent of respondents from Lithuania and Latvia, respectively, would support greater government intervention in climate action. In Estonia, 70 per cent of respondents in their 20s were in favour of stricter government measures imposing changes in people’s behaviour to fight climate change – however, this percentage dropped to 46 per cent of those respondents over 30.
Combining economic concerns with climate measures
Nevertheless, whilst at least 50 per cent of respondents in most CEE countries support stricter climate measures, inflation and the war in Ukraine are increasingly growing issues among Europeans, according to the survey’s findings.
According to 87 per cent of Slovakian respondents, economic and financial issues (financial crisis, increased cost of living and unemployment) were now the biggest issue in the country (up 24 percentage points from the previous year’s survey), while only 18 per cent still saw climate change as the country’s biggest concern (down by two per cent). Indeed, a similar response was seen from other respondents in the CEE region. However, this view did not correspond with support for stricter government measures: 70 per cent of Slovaks under 30 were in favour of stricter government measures imposing changes in people’s behaviour to fight climate change, in comparison to 50 per cent of those over 30.
Looking further into central Europe, half of the Polish respondents ranked climate change or environmental degradation among the three biggest challenges for Poland. 66 per cent of the surveyed Poles were in favour of stricter government measures to impose a change in personal behaviour.
Similarly in Hungary, whilst economic concerns pushed climate concerns aside, a majority of Hungarian respondents (52 per cent) were in favour of stricter government measures imposing a change in people’s behaviour to tackle climate change. Interestingly, contrary to respondents in countries like Estonia, the results were broadly similar across the younger age groups: 54 per cent of Hungarian respondents under 30 would support stricter government climate measures.