Environmental concerns "less immediate" - poll

Survey shows EU citizens more worried about dirty air, water, ozone hole than GMOs

The EU's citizens believe that tackling environmental problems is a less urgent priority than they did in the early 1990s, according to an opinion poll published this week by the European Commission's environment directorate.

In the survey of nearly 16,000 people in all EU countries carried out in April, 69% of respondents said that the fight against pollution was an immediate rather than a distant concern. The corresponding figures in earlier surveys that asked a similar question were 82% in 1995 and 85% in 1992. Among EU countries, Greeks and Swedes felt the greatest sense of urgency over environmental problems (87% and 91% respectively), while the French and Belgians were most phlegmatic (52% and 55%).

In a confusing twist, however, two-thirds of those polled in April said they were more worried about environmental problems now than they had been five years ago. Only 10% said they had become less worried.

The survey is the sixth in a series initiated in 1982. Some of its conclusions were published earlier this year, suggesting that support for EU environmental action as opposed to steps taken at national level had declined (ENDS Daily 12 August). Most questions in the latest survey, however, are either new or have been amended, making most comparisons with previous surveys impossible.

In one surprise finding, the survey reveals that EU citizens are less concerned about genetically modified organisms than they are over other environmental issues. When asked to arrange a list of nine issues according to the level of worry they felt about them, respondents placed GMOs joint last. The EU's citizens are more concerned about air, water and land pollution followed by the destruction of the ozone layer, it reveals.

The survey also shows that public opinion remains more strongly in favour of regulatory standards accompanied by high fines for transgressors as a means of tackling environmental problems rather than non-regulatory approaches such as shifts in taxation. About half said the former was the best approach, compared with 30% who favoured the latter.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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