New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

air quality

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


According to a new Eurobarometer survey, over two thirds of Europeans think that the European Union should propose additional measures to improve air quality. Of the more than 27,000 citizens interviewed in all EU Member States, more than half of respondents think that households, car manufacturers, energy producers, farmers and public authorities are not doing enough to promote good air quality.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “I am encouraged to see that so many Europeans support action on air quality. In the EU, air pollution causes over 400,000 premature deaths every year and society pays a huge price including for healthcare, lost work days and damage to crops and buildings. The Commission is providing expertise, best practice exchanges and guidance for Member States and businesses, as well as support for investment and funding to improve air quality for all. But at the same time, if EU laws are not respected, we take legal action against Member States.”

The survey also reveals the need for better communication, especially at national level, about air quality. A majority of respondents do not feel well-informed about air quality problems in their country. Compared to a 2017 survey, respondents are more likely to think that air quality has deterioratedover the past ten years – even if, in fact, air quality data reported shows significant improvements during that time.

In May 2018, the Juncker Commission adopted a Communication ‘A Europe that protects: Clean air for all’setting the measures needed to be taken by national, regional and local actors to improve air quality in Europe. Furthermore, the Commission has taken legal action to protect citizens from air pollution referring to the Court of Justice of the European Union the Member States that fail to respect EU legislation on air quality. The Commission is also stepping up cooperation with Member States by engaging with relevant authorities in new ‘Clean Air Dialogues’. In the next two days, on 28 and 29 November 2019, the EU Clean Air Forum will take place in Bratislava, which will be the occasion for decision makers and stakeholders to share knowledge and assist in the implementation of European, national and local air policies.

The main results of the new Special Eurobarometer survey on the attitudes of Europeans towards Air Quality include:

A majority of respondents want the EU to propose additional measures

More than two-thirds of respondents (71%) say they think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality-related problems in Europe and 38% would like to be able to express their views on such measures.

This is the view of a majority of respondents in all Member States.

Air quality-related problems should be dealt with at the international level first, say most respondents

More than seven in ten respondents say that air pollution should be addressed at the international level (72%). Half of respondents say it should be addressed at European level and the same proportion say it should be addressed at the national level.

For the largest proportion of respondents (44%), the most effective way to tackle air quality problems is to apply stricter pollution controls on industrial and energy-production activities. This is the most frequently mentioned measure in 25 Member States.

Respondents believe that different actors, including households, should do more to tackle air quality problems

More than 50% of respondents in all countries think that households, car manufacturers, energy producers, farmers and public authorities are not doing enough to promote good air quality.

However, Europeans tend to take more actions to reduce harmful emissions than in 2017

Seven in ten respondents have taken at least one action to reduce harmful emissions in the air. This is an eight-percentage point increase compared to responses from the 2017 survey.

The main action taken by respondents is the replacement of older energy-intensive equipment with new equipment with a better energy rating (41%).

The level of information about air quality problems is rather low

A majority of respondents (54%) do not feel well-informed about EU air quality problems in their country.

Most respondents think that the quality of air has deteriorated in the last ten years and this negative perception has tended to increase since 2017

Respondents are more likely to think that air quality has deteriorated (58%) rather than stayed the same (28%) or improved (10%) over the past ten years.

There has been an 11-percentage point increase since 2017 in the respondents who believe that air quality has deteriorated.

There is still low awareness of EU air quality standards

Only around one third of respondents have heard of the EU air quality standards (31%). Most of those who have heard of the standards believe they should be strengthened (63%).

Air quality-related problems mentioned in the survey are considered serious by most respondents

More than 50% of respondents think that respiratory diseases, cardio-vascular diseases and asthma and allergy are very serious problem in their countries.

Background

This survey was carried out in the 28 EU Member States between 11 and 29 September 2019. 27,565 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face at home in their mother tongue.

This Special Eurobarometer survey is the follow-up of a Flash Eurobarometer survey conducted in September 2012 on the same topic. Many of the questions from the Flash Eurobarometer have been repeated in this Special Eurobarometer. Some of the questions in the 2012 Eurobarometer Flash were also asked in the Special Eurobarometer on Attitudes of Europeans towards the Environment conducted in October 2017.

This survey was designed to explore perceptions of the level of knowledge about air quality problems; perceived changes in the quality of air over the past ten years; the role of different actors in promoting good air quality; the most effective ways of tackling air quality problems; the preferred level of action at which to address air quality problems; awareness of EU air quality standards and opinions about them; and support for additional EU measures to tackle these problems.

The Eurobarometer results come just before the opening of the EU Clean Air Forum in Bratislava on 28 and 29 November 2019. The Forum will focus on four areas: health and air quality; energy and air quality; agriculture and air quality; and clean air funding mechanisms.

More than 30 speakers from government, industry and non-governmental organisations will share their views on improving air quality and reflect on the development and implementation of effective European, national and local air policies, projects and programmes.

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