Environmental awareness: Great momentum for socio-ecological transformation

Majority of population supportive of more ambitious environmental and climate change policy

CyclistClick to enlarge
84 percent of respondents are in favour of more and better cycling paths.
Source: zozzzzo / Fotolia.com

People in Germany expect more political action to protect the environment and climate as environmental awareness of the damaging influence of pollution has grown over the past 20 years. These are the findings of a detailed analysis of the Environmental Awareness in Germany 2020 study. There is little doubt anymore that climate change is man-made. The study also shows that the population is very much in favour of a number of response measures: a ban on climate-damaging products (80 percent), linking agricultural subsidies to environmental performance standards (92 percent) or introducing a speed limit on motor-ways (64 percent). There are also signs that people are willing to change their individual environmental behaviour: 67 percent of respondents are prepared to eat less meat in future, 60 percent intend to purchase highly energy-efficient devices, and 74 percent want to consume less overall.

However, the willingness to do more to protect the environment and climate action does not always go hand in hand with corresponding behaviour. The reasons for this are, firstly, everyday demands such as lack of time, lack of financial resources or family or work commitments – but also the lack of opportunities and relevant infrastructures. Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA), said: "We have to take a close look at the hurdles that people face. Policymakers must make it easier for people to live sustainably and adjust their daily routines. We need ambitious energy and environmental standards for buildings, transportation, products and food, as well as prices that speak more of the ecological truth. We also need to avoid social hardship, for example in the form of "climate money" for citizens that is transferred back from CO2 revenues. This is the only way to make environmental protection mainstream. I am pleased that our survey shows not only a strong willingness in almost all areas to support measures for more environmental protection and climate action, but also an overwhelming demand that more be done. This applies above all to politics, but the respondents also expect more commitment from industry and business, as well as from their fellow citizens.

To promote climate action, 80 percent of those surveyed think it is important to make climate-damaging products more expensive or to ban them. Some 88 per cent support the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies. The measures surveyed are generally well received, especially in the field of agriculture and food. A clear majority of 92 percent agree that the expansion of organic farming should be supported more strongly. Another 86 percent want agricultural subsidies to be linked to ecological performance standards, and 93 percent are in favour of using less plant protection products, and 86 per cent support the use of less fertilisers.

In the area of mobility, 64 percent of respondents are in favour of a speed limit on motor-ways. 84 percent support more and better cycling paths, and 89 percent support better public transportation (more stops, more frequency).

Further information

The Environmental Awareness Study has been collecting representative data on environment-related attitudes and behaviour of the population in Germany on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and UBA for over 25 years. The main topics of the study are climate action and socio-ecological transformation. For this representative study, 2,115 citizens aged 14 and over were polled in November and December 2020. The survey and analysis were carried out by the Institute for Applied Social Sciences (infas) and the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE).

The 25th anniversary of the study and environmental awareness research was an occasion to publish a background paper with key long-term developments in April 2021. It is available for download here (in German).

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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