Despite the Financial Crisis the Environment Remains Important for Germans

For a fifth of all German citizens environmental and climate protection remains first or second priority. This means the theme has risen from the third to the fourth place. Large differences exist between social-cultural groups: especially the social-ecological group is very interested in the environment, almost consistently across the different themes. The social under-privileged, but sometimes also conservative groups clearly see the necessity and chances of environmental and climate protection but are often reluctant to take action or to demand political action.

Environmental policy necessary to tackle other social challenges
The interviewees were asked to rank environmental protection according to other important and current political issues: creating jobs, ensuring economic well-being, managing future tasks, ensuring competitiveness and increasing social justice. The results show that, depending on the political task, a quarter to a third of the interviewees see adequate environmental and climate protection as a condition to tackle the other societal challenges. For an even bigger percentage – between 30 and 44 percent – compromises between ecological measures and other political challenges are essential. A much smaller percentage, between 17 and 24 per cent, agrees with the statement that we can only afford environmental and climate conservation when progress is made in the other areas.

A higher demand for more environmental protection by the federal government
The call for a stronger engagement of the federal government in environmental protection increases: between 2000 and 2008 the percentage of the society that asks the government for a more active stance in environmental matters had fallen from 73 to 56 percent – with a peak of 70 per cent in 2006 – but in 2010 it had risen again to almost two-thirds.

High expectations around relevant environmental policy stakeholders
Around three-quarters of the interviewees see a large potential for the private sector and the government to contribute to environmental and climate protection. Contributing to environmental and climate protection by changing the personal behaviour through less car use and less travelling by plane is seen as less effective, as a only bit more than half of all interviewees indicates this as a viable option. Changing general consumption patterns is seen by about three quarters of the interviewees as effective. People with low incomes estimate the measures of the different stakeholders to be less effective.

Quality of the near environment is seen as very good but pessimistic view on the quality of the future environment and the environment in other countries
Almost 30 percent of the interviewees experience environmental problems as a burden, four percent even as a heavy burden. However, 87 per cent describes the environment in the municipality as good, 16 per cent even as very good. The global status of the environment is rated by more than 80 per cent as bad. Similar differences that can be seen on a spatial scale can be seen in the temporal dimension: many interviewees are worried about the environmental situation in which their children and grandchildren will have to live.

Climate protection measures have a high priority
56 Per cent of the interviewees is convinced that that Germany can overcome the problems that are created by climate change. With this result, the optimistic trend that started between 2006 and 2008 is stabilising because in 2006 39 per cent thought this. In the field of international climate protection, almost 61 per cent wants Germany to play a leading role while in 2008 only 50 per cent of the interviewees wanted this. More than 80 per cent of the interviewees rates different measures to protect the climate, such as government subsidies for investments to increase energy efficiency in houses or legislation to regulate the energy efficiency of electrical appliances as important or very important. A significant improvement in isolation of buildings is seen by 42 per cent as very important. For many actors, room exists to improve their climate political engagement, according to the interviewees: 71 per cent of the interviewees rates the engagement of environmental organisations as adequate or sufficient, but only 47 per cent and 46 per cent of the engagement of cities and municipalities and from citizens respectively is rated like this. Only 38 per cent rates the federal government in this way. The interviewees are most critical about the private sector: only 2 per cent thinks they have a sufficient engagement, a mere 9 per cent thinks they engage themselves adequately.

Broad base for technological innovations but also cultural changes are accepted by relatively big minorities
85 Per cent of the interviewees agree with the statement: we need to switch completely to renewable energies. A similar percentage agreed with the environmental policy target to increase energy efficiency. Skepticism increased when nuclear energy was discussed: 32 per cent would like to abandon nuclear energy sooner than planned, that is five per cent more than in 2008. The percentage of interviewees that would not like to phase out nuclear energy sooner than planned remained constant at 31 per cent. In addition, a high acceptance potential for cultural innovations can be observed. Every fourth car driver likes the idea of car sharing, especially the well-educated, women and West-Germans. Lending certain household goods to others in the near proximity is also something that is met with the acceptance of 50 per cent of the interviewees. Highly educated persons and those with a higher income are overrepresented in this group.

Personal engagement increased but consumption of organic products decreased
The percentage that used ‘green’ current has, with eight per cent, more than doubled in the last two years. The number of those that are active in environmental or nature protection has also doubled from four per cent in 2008 to 9 per cent currently. The members of environment and nature protection organisations are often well educated and have a high net domestic income. At the same time, however, the consumption of organic products decreased. Organic products play a role in the diet of 34 per cent of the interviewees, while in 2008 the number was 42 per cent.

Experiencing nature during holidays is important
When choosing a holiday destination, the natural landscape plays a role for more than half of the society. In addition, the opportunities to experience nature at the holiday destination are very important – especially for persons older than 30 and families. This shows that intact nature is important for Germans as an experience and to relax. Natural experiences form an important part of the quality of life.

Here you may find the german study (only in german)!

For more information, please contact: Dr. Jutta Emig

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