Joint press release by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and the German Environment Agency (UBA)

Environmental awareness study: Majority of Germans consider adaptation to already clearly noticeable climate crisis necessary

Environmental and climate protection remain important despite multiple other crises

A woman can be seen standing with her back to the picture. She is standing in a forest, which is beautifully green and looks into the distance.Click to enlarge
Even in times of various crises, environmental and climate issues are still important to Germans
Source: Adobe Stock / Masson

The vast majority of Germans already clearly feel the negative consequences of the climate crisis and consider measures for adaptation to be necessary. This is shown by the Environmental Awareness Study 2022 conducted by the German Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUV). Even though other crises, such as the war of aggression against Ukraine and inflation are more in the foreground, protecting the environment and the climate remains an important issue for people in Germany. A very clear majority also support the environmentally and climate-friendly restructuring of the German economy. However, according to those surveyed, it is important that the transformation takes place in a socially responsible manner and that regions that are particularly affected receive targeted support.

The consequences of the climate crisis, which are now also strongly felt in Germany, are of great concern to the people in Germany. For example, 85 percent of those surveyed already perceive very strong or strong impacts of climate change in the form of persistent dry spells, low water levels and droughts. The importance of adaptation and protection measures is therefore high. Over two-thirds of respondents, for example, see it as very important to convert forests to mixed forests that are resilient in the face of drought. The question about possible health hazards shows a clear increase over time. Whereas in 2016 59 percent of respondents said that the⁠ climate impacts ⁠ could be extremely or very damaging to their health, in 2022 this figure had risen to 73 percent.

Federal Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke: “Recent years show very clearly that weather extremes are increasing – with considerable negative effects on the environment, the economy and also on people's health. This forces us to take precautions and adapt to the consequences of the climate crisis. That is why the Federal Government has launched the first nationwide Climate Adaptation Act. For the first time, it is intended to create a binding framework for the federal government, the federal states and local authorities and to protect us, for example, through strategies for cooler cities and more shading. With the National Heat Protection Plan, the Water Strategy and the Natural Climate Protection ⁠ Action Programme, there are three more building blocks to help us mitigate the negative consequences of the climate crisis for people and the environment."

When it comes to the need for environmental policy action, the issue of plastic waste is at the top of the list for the respondents: A large majority, 75 percent, consider the reduction of plastic waste inputs into nature to be a central task of policymakers. 72 percent of the respondents also consider it very important to promote the circular economy, i.e. to recycle raw materials and goods more effectively and to promote long-term product use. Steffi Lemke comments: "We want to achieve a legally binding international agreement against global plastic waste by 2024. At national level, I have already proposed a law to avoid unnecessary packaging and to strengthen ecologically beneficial reusable packaging - among other things, through improved return options for reusable bottles and a larger reusable offer for food-to-go packaging."

When it comes to the main topic of the study, the environmentally and climate-friendly restructuring of the German economy, it is evident that an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of the respondents support this goal. On this point UBA ⁠President Dirk Messner said: "It is enormously important that such a clear majority is fundamentally in favour of an ecological transformation of the economy. Decarbonising the economy is essential if we are to meet climate change targets and play our part in preventing dangerous⁠ climate change ⁠ beyond the two-degree limit."

However, the results also show that economic restructuring to protect the natural basis of life causes ⁠uncertainty ⁠, concerns about social cohesion and fear of social decline among many citizens. Three quarters of the respondents fear that the ecological transition will widen the gap between rich and poor in Germany. Around 40 percent are afraid that the restructuring of the economy will lead to social decline.

"The ecological economic transition must be socially acceptable if we do not want to lose people along the way," says Dirk Messner. "In concrete terms, this means, for example, making CO2 ⁠-pricing socially acceptable through climate payments or also creating job prospects for people from lower income groups and from structurally weak areas. We need to make it clearer that sustainable economic activity can become a job-creating machine."

The survey results underline this: In each case, more than 80 percent of respondents are in favour of the state supporting severely affected regions in converting to an environmentally and climate-friendly economy and financing necessary further training and retraining. Dirk Messner: "The state should also push the transition for economic reasons. The longer we delay the necessary measures, the more the danger grows that the international competitiveness of the German economy will continue to decline in important future markets, such as electromobility or renewable energies."

The Environmental Awareness Study has been commissioned by the BMUV and the UBA every two years since 1996 to collect representative data on environmental attitudes and behaviour of the population in Germany. For the current study, a representative survey was conducted online in summer 2022 among 2,073 citizens aged 14 and over. The ConPolicy Institute and the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) designed and analysed the study. The forsa Institute was commissioned to carry out the fieldwork.

Umweltbewusstseinsstudie 2022

  1. Mehrheit der Menschen spürt die Folgen des Klimawandels und sieht politischen Handlungsbedarf.
  2. Eine große Mehrheit der Menschen befürwortet, die Wirtschaft umwelt- und klimafreundlich umzubauen.
  3. Umwelt- und Klimaschutz bleibt für die Menschen wichtig.
  4. Alle Umweltprobleme wirken bedrohlich auf die Menschen - der Klimawandel bereitet der Sorgen.
  5. Immer mehr Menschen befürchten, dass der Klimawandel der eigenen Gesundheit schaden könnte.
  6. Viele Menschen nehemn die Umweltprobleme wahr und sind betroffen.
  7. Die Mehrheit ist bereit sich aktiv für die Umwelt und das Klima einzusetzen.
  8. Die Mehrheit ist dafür, die deutsche Wirtschaft umwelt- und klimafreundlich umzubauen.
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