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Public concern about climate change in the run up to the UN Conference on Climate Change

Pew Research Center carried out a 40-country public opinion survey about climate change ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris. Following the release of the results on 5 November 2015, the Members’ Research Service hosted a policy hub about Public concern about climate change in the run up to the UN Conference on Climate Change on 9 November.

Bruce Stokes, Director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center presented the results of the survey. More than 45 000 people were interviewed in 40 countries, including six EU Member States.

Brazilians were most concerned about climate change, with 86% considering it a serious problem. The majority of Europeans are very concerned (a median of 54%, same as the global median). The least concern was expressed in China (18%) and Poland (19%).

Perception of global climate change as a very serious problem.

Perception of global climate change as a very serious problem. Source: Pew Research Center

Broad support for limiting greenhouse gas emissions

Regardless of the level of concern, a majority of respondents are in favour of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement (a global median of 78%, with 63% in Poland and 71% in China).

In all countries surveyed, more people think that major lifestyle changes are required to reduce the effects of climate change than people who think that technology can solve the problem. More women than men believe that lifestyle changes are required.

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion about the possible reasons for the differences between countries and demographic groups. Mr Stokes pointed out that public opinion surveys often give results that do not seem to have a rational explanation. People surveyed about an issue on which they are not experts often give emotional and sometimes even contradictory responses.

European regions at the forefront

Audrey Parizel, Administrator Climate Change in the Committee of the Regions, presented the perception of the European regions on the climate change issue. It is cities and regions that have to deal directly with the impacts of climate change, and who turn policy objectives into concrete results. The Covenant of Mayors, European cities and towns that commit voluntarily to go beyond EU legislation can be considered as a European success story. The Committee of the Regions opinion, adopted by a huge majority, calls for a multi-level governance approach, and for an increase of ambition which the cities and regions are willing to support on the ground.

European Parliament position in line with EU citizens’ opinions

Gregor Erbach, Policy Analyst in the Members’ Research Service, outlined the EU position in view of the upcoming climate conference in Paris. He showed that the European Parliament resolution on the Paris conference reflects very well the opinions expressed by EU citizens in the Pew survey.

For more information about climate change and the ongoing negotiations, consult the climate change section on this blog.

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