Picture: 123RF/NITSUKI
Picture: 123RF/NITSUKI

Brussels — Almost half of all Europeans fear climate change more than losing a job or of a terrorist attack, a study by the European Investment Bank (EIB) showed on Thursday, as EU legislators declared a “climate emergency”.

The symbolic vote by legislators was designed to press for action against global warming at an upcoming UN summit.

The EIB survey of 30,000 respondents from 30 countries, including China and the US, showed that 47% of Europeans saw climate change as the number one threat in their lives, above unemployment, large-scale migration and concerns about terrorism.

“European citizens are highly concerned about climate change and its impact on their everyday life and future,” said Emma Navarro, EIB vice-president responsible for climate action and the environment.

“Interestingly, many of them are optimistic about the possibility to reverse it. Unfortunately, science says otherwise. We have one shot at limiting global warming and mitigating its effects,” she said.

The EIB, owned by EU governments, is the world's largest international public lending institution and has the task of financing climate-change-related investment that is a priority for the new European Commission.

The survey, the first of four planned by the EIB, showed that the level of concern about climate change was even higher in China than in the EU, with 73% of respondents seeing it as the biggest threat to society, compared to 39% in the US, where most people worried more about access to health services.

The study also showed that 41% of young Europeans between the age of 15 and 29 years, especially from southern countries such as Spain, Greece and France, thought they would have to move to another country because of the changing climate.

“Overall, 82% of Europeans report that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives, a perception that goes up to 98% in China and 76% in the US,” the study said.

The incoming European Commission, which will start on December 1, wants to make the whole of the EU an area that is neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 after slashing emissions by 50% by 2030. It still requires the consent of all EU governments before such a target becomes binding, but some countries that still depend heavily on coal, such as Poland, oppose such ambition.