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    Post-COVID-19: Europeans want a green recovery

    2020-2021 EIB Climate Survey, part 1 of 3

    The first release of this year's EIB climate survey shows that the COVID-19 crisis is influencing citizens’ perception of the climate emergency. Most Europeans consider COVID-19 to be the greatest challenge currently facing their country. But the fight against climate change remains a crucial issue: Europeans also say that the post-pandemic economic recovery must take the climate emergency into account.

    EIB climate survey finds big support for a green recovery

    The first part of the survey, conducted in partnership with market research firm BVA, finds that 57% of Europeans say that the post-pandemic economic recovery must take the climate emergency into account. They say their governments should promote low-carbon and climate-resilient growth.

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    To respond to the COVID-19 crisis, governments have implemented measures such as mandatory masking, lockdowns and travel restrictions. The pandemic has shown that citizens have been willing to accept strong government measures to contain COVID-19, and people seem open to such practices being applied in the context of climate change. 70% of Europeans, 67% of Americans and 95% of Chinese citizens say they would favour similar measures that would impose changes on individual behaviour to tackle climate change.

    “2020 has been a very difficult year. It is not surprising that the COVID-19 pandemic is now the main concern among citizens. At the same time, people are calling for a green economic recovery. This is a strong signal and a call for action for concerned institutions. The EIB is more than ever committed to addressing this challenge in the years to come.
    ” Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle

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    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.

     

    Explore results from the following countries

    66% of French respondents say they are in favour of stricter government measures that would impose changes on individual behaviour to tackle the climate crisis

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    This year’s survey finds that French people are focusing their attention on the COVID-19 crisis and its economic consequences. The pandemic is their most important concern (70%), followed by the financial crisis (37%), unemployment (36%) and climate change (35%). Among the French, 15-29 year-olds (46%) and those living in an urban setting (41%) are the most likely to attach greater importance to climate change. A majority of French respondents (61%) say the post-pandemic economic recovery must take the climate emergency into account.

    In addition, 66% say they would favour stricter government measures to tackle environmental issues, a figure even higher among women (69%), left-leaning individuals (72%), urban dwellers (72%) and those who say they feel the effect of climate change in their daily life (73%). 

    65% of Germans believe their country leads the fight against climate change

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    Germans see their country at the forefront of the fight against climate change (65%). More men (71%) than women (60%) agree with this statement. On average, 41% of Europeans say their own country is at the forefront. German respondents are also more likely to believe the EU is at the forefront of the fight against climate change compared to countries such as the US and China: 75% agree with that statement, compared to 66% for the European average.

    Most Germans (63%) think that addressing climate change must be part of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. This proportion, which is six points higher than the European average (57%), demonstrates that the fight against climate change remains one of the main challenges for the country and continues to be a crucial issue.

    92% of Italians believe that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives

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    Italy was the first European country to be affected by the pandemic and one of the hardest hit. This year, COVID-19 appears as the top challenge for the Italian population (68%). Italians are particularly concerned about the economic and social repercussions of the crisis compared to their fellow Europeans: 63% list unemployment as a challenge, 22 points higher than the European average. 47% of Italians name a financial crisis as a challenge, which is 10 points higher that the European average. The climate crisis, the third most important challenge in 2019, now takes fourth position (32%).

    Italy reports one of the highest percentages of people in Europe who feel the effects of climate change in their daily lives. Indeed, 92% of Italians say that climate change is already impacting their everyday life (17 points higher than the European mean of 75%). This feeling is more prevalent among women (94%) and 15-29 year-olds (97%). In particular, young Italians (68%) want the COVID-19 economic recovery to take climate into account.

    59% of Dutch people are in favour of stricter government measures forcing citizens to change their behaviour to tackle climate change

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    Last year, climate change was ranked as the top challenge for Dutch people. This year, however, it is relegated to third place, with a financial crisis ranked just one percentage point ahead (42% of Dutch respondents listed a financial crisis as a major challenge while 41% cited climate change). 15-29 year-olds attach more importance to climate change and cite it as the second most important challenge (49%).

    59% are in favour of stricter government measures that would impose individual behaviour changes to address the climate crisis, which is lower than the European average (70%). However, young people (66%), as well as those who already feel the effects of climate change on their daily lives (70%), are more likely to favour such measures.

    77% of Poles say that climate change already impacts their everyday lives

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    Although the country was, relatively speaking, spared by the first wave of the health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is cited as the top challenge facing Poland (77%) this year. It is followed by access to healthcare, a major issue in a country which has one of the lowest number of doctors per inhabitants in Europe. The fight against climate change, which appeared to be the second most important challenge in 2019, is now relegated to the fifth position (32%). It is ranked as less of a challenge than a financial crisis (43%) and political instability (33%).

    However, more than three-quarters of Poles believe that climate change already has an impact on their everyday lives (77%). Although this figure is nine points lower than in 2019, it remains high and is slightly higher than the European average (75%). This feeling is more prevalent among women (83%), parents (81%) and inhabitants of the urban regions of Centralny (81%) and Lódzkie (85%). Furthermore, 71% of Poles would be in favour of stricter government measures, forcing citizens to change their behaviour to tackle climate change (vs. 70% for the European average).

    76% of Spaniards say that climate change impacts their everyday life

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    81% of Spaniards cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a major challenge (nine points higher than the European average of 72%); 61% mention unemployment (20 points higher than the European average); and 51% list a financial crisis (14 points higher than the European average). Climate change, which appeared to be the third most important challenge in 2019, is now downgraded to sixth position (18%), following political instability and access to healthcare and health services.

    However, three-quarters of Spaniards believe that climate change already has an impact on their everyday life (76%). A clear majority of Spaniards (79%) say they would be in favour of stricter government measures, forcing the population to change its behaviours to tackle climate change (compared to 70% for the European average). Women (83%), 15-29 year-olds (83%) left-wing supporters (89%) and people who feel the effect of climate change in their everyday life (85%) say they are in favour of this idea.

    Contacts

    Thomas Froimovici

    Press office