No flying or less meat? The sacrifices Europeans will - and won't - make to help the climate

The lifestyle changes Europeans are willing to make for climate change vary from country to country.
The lifestyle changes Europeans are willing to make for climate change vary from country to country. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Rosie Frost
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A survey from Germany has revealed that just 13 per cent of people are willing to give up their cars.


Two-thirds of Germans are willing to make personal sacrifices to protect the planet from climate change, according to a new survey.

The poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of newspaper Welt am Sonntag, revealed what people in the country were - and weren’t - willing to give up.

43 per cent of respondents were willing to fly less often and 40 per cent would use less heat.

But when it comes to other climate-friendly choices, Germans are more reluctant. Less than a third would be prepared to change their diet and just 13 per cent were willing to give up private transport and go without a car.

Across the EU, the lifestyle changes that people are willing to make for the sake of climate change vary. 80 per cent of people in the EU’s 27 member states now feel the effects of climate change in their daily lives, according to the European Investment Bank’s 2022/23 climate survey.

And more than 80 per cent believe that if we don’t drastically reduce our consumption of energy and goods in the coming years, we’re heading for global catastrophe.

So where in Europe are people willing to give up the most and what lifestyle changes are they happy to make?

French people are willing to limit how much meat and dairy people can buy

The EIB survey found that most French respondents (57 per cent) were in favour of a carbon budget system. This would allocate each person a fixed number of credits every year to spend on items with a big carbon footprint like flights and meat.

Food was also a big topic for French people. Six in 10 said they would pay slightly more for food that was produced locally and more sustainably. A majority (57 per cent) were in favour of limiting the amount of meat and dairy that people can buy.

Overall, people in France believe that the government has a role in regulating people’s choices. Two-thirds were in favour of stricter measures to change people’s behaviour to tackle climate change.

A majority of French people would support a carbon budget system that gave credits for high emissions items.Pixabay

Brits back no more single-use plastic

A YouGov poll conducted in the UK earlier this year found that 36 per cent of respondents would be willing to limit their dairy and meat consumption to two or three meals a week. Just 12 per cent would be up for cutting meat and dairy out of their diet altogether.

Almost 60 per cent said they would be willing to never buy products made from single-use plastics.

Slightly more people than in Germany were willing to forgo their car to walk, cycle or use public transport. 20 per cent of people said they would make the change and 14 per cent said it was something they were already doing.

But Brits were less keen on changes to their travel plans. Just a quarter of people said they would pay an extra fee for flights to offset their environmental impact.

Spain supports stricter government measures to change behaviour

Spain is one EU country that is set to be hit hard by climate change. It is already suffering from the effects of prolonged drought with some regions restricting residents' access to water as reservoirs run dry.

But a recent survey from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology found that the percentage of people who believe climate change is a very serious problem has dropped since 2020.

Despite this, the EIB survey found it was one of the countries with the most support for stricter government measures to change people’s behaviour. 80 per cent of respondents believed their own behaviour could make a difference compared to the 72 per cent average across Europe.

A 2021 survey from the University of Santiago de Compostela showed increasing public support for subsidising insulation in homes, low emissions zones in cities and restricting the use of polluting vehicles.

Spanish people support measures to cut emissions from traffic in cities.Pixabay

Italy supports labelling food products with their climate footprint

Italians were also above the EU average when it came to supporting stricter government measures to change people’s behaviour.

Labelling food products to highlight their climate footprint was an idea supported by 85 per cent of Italian respondents to the EIB survey. 64 per cent of people also said they would be willing to pay slightly more for local food.

Over two-thirds of Italians were in favour of limiting the amount of meat and dairy products people could buy to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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