Climate change challenge in COVID-19 world
The current health crisis has changed citizens’ perception of challenges their country is facing today. In the 2019 survey, climate change was ranked as the top challenge by Europeans (cited by nearly half of Europeans). This year, however, it is relegated to fourth place (33%). Unsurprisingly, Europeans name the COVID-19 pandemic as the greatest challenge currently facing their country (72%). The pandemic ranks first in all European countries, with levels ranging from 57% (Hungary) to 86% (Malta).
This is also the case in the United States (73%), where health concerns were already the top-ranked challenge last year, and in the UK (77%). The only exception is China: Chinese people still place climate change as first in their list of challenges (61%), slightly ahead of the pandemic (59%).
The survey reveals that beyond the health issues linked to COVID-19, Europeans and Americans are very concerned by the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. In Europe, unemployment (41%) and a financial crisis (37%) are named as the two other major challenges, both of which are ranked ahead of climate change (33%). In the United States, the top three challenges – the COVID-19 pandemic (73%), unemployment (37%) and a financial crisis (34%) – are the same as in Europe.
Support for a green recovery
However, though the pandemic appears to be Europe's major challenge today, it is not a reason to overlook the climate issue. As found in the 2019 survey, a large majority of citizens – whether in Europe (75%), China (94%) or the United States (72%) – say that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives.
In fact, a majority of Europeans (57%) say that the economic recovery must take the climate emergency into account. They believe their government should promote low-carbon and climate-resilient growth. Only 43% would prefer their government to boost the economy by any means in order to return to economic growth as soon as possible.
Citizens of some countries, such as Hungary (71%), Malta (67%), Spain (64%), Germany (63%), Luxembourg (63%) and France (61%), clearly think that the fight against climate change must be part of economic recovery. However, other European countries, including Cyprus (69%), Latvia (66%), Greece (57%), Denmark (55%) and Sweden (54%), favour a recovery by any means.
Furthermore, a clear majority of Chinese people (73%) believe that their national government must support a green recovery. But Americans are more divided: about half of Americans support a green recovery (49%), while a slight majority (51%) believe that the economy must be stimulated by any means to return to economic growth as quickly as possible.
Who’s leading the fight against climate change
66% of Europeans think that the European Union is at the forefront of the fight against climate change. This compares to 90% of Chinese citizens who believe China leads, and 49% of Americans who believe the US does. But no matter where they live, people have expectations for stricter pro-climate policy everywhere.
Citizens in favour of stricter measures to tackle climate crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that people were willing to accept strong government measures, like mandatory masking and travel restrictions, to combat the pandemic, and people seem open to such practices being applied in the context of climate change. 70% of Europeans and 95% of Chinese respondents would be in favour of stricter government measures, forcing the population to change its behaviour to fight climate change. Even in the US, where climate deniers are loudest, this figure is 67%, illustrating a desire for action that tackles climate change.