"Green" Germans balk at ecotax programme

Official opinion poll finds high environmental ambitions, resistance to higher energy prices

Environmental awareness among Germans has reached a new high with 94% of the population ranking the environment as important, according to an opinion poll published on Friday. The survey is the seventh in a series commissioned by the German environment agency since 1991 to monitor development of the nation's environmental consciousness. It was prepared by Marburg University and the Emnid Institute, based on interviews with some 2,000 individuals in January and February.

The findings confirm Germany's status as one of Europe's most environmentally conscious nations, with a large majority of respondents claiming a high level of environmental awareness. In addition, some 60% said they were willing to pay higher taxes for the sake of environmental protection, compared with 53% in 1998 and 49% in 1996.

However, the survey also shows that the population is not necessarily ready to live up to its high ideals. This is particularly clear when attitudes to the concept of ecological tax reform are compared with opinions on the actual ecotax programme introduced by the red/green government.

Unsurprisingly, 78% of those asked had heard of ecological tax reform compared with only 35% in 1998. However, while 71% of people said they were willing to pay higher prices for the sake of environmental protection, only 29% agreed that the government's ecotax programme would create jobs by making energy more expensive and labour cheaper. Two-thirds of respondents believed that the programme was "socially unjust".

An environment agency official told ENDS Daily the apparent contradiction between acceptance of the fundamental principle of ecotaxes and wariness of the government's actual programme was due to a failure in communication.

Meanwhile, environment minister Jürgen Trittin has welcomed elements of the survey suggesting strong public support for the government's policy of phasing out nuclear power. Some 85% of respondents said they believed nuclear power to be dangerous and three-quarters wanted it phased out as quickly as possible.

Follow Up:
German environment agency, tel: +49 30 89030; German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 285 500, a press release and full report: Environmental awareness in Germany 2000 (in German).

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