Survey of 25,000 Europeans reveals significant concern over air quality and solid support for renewable energy investment.
The vast majority of Europeans believe investment in renewable energy should be prioritised over the next 30 years, compared to alternative energy sources including shale gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants.
That is just one of the findings of a major survey of over 25,500 citizens of EU member states carried out to inform the European Commission´s comprehensive review of EU air policy, which found that despite a campaign by industry to promote shale gas as a cost effective and lower carbon alternative to coal, just nine percent of Europeans believe unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas should be prioritised.
The poll, which was published last week based on telephone interviews carried out last September, asked which energy options should be prioritised over the next 30 years, with respondents allowed to pick a number of different options.
Renewable energy boasted the highest level of support with 70 per cent of people saying it should be prioritised. In contrast, 28 per cent said energy efficiency measures should be prioritised, 18 per cent favoured nuclear energy and 12 per cent signalled support for CCS projects.
“Respondents are least likely to mention unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas (nine per cent) and conventional fossil fuels (eight per cent),” the report stated. “The great majority think renewable energy sources should be prioritised (70 per cent). This is by far the most mentioned option. All the other options have been mentioned by less than one-third of the respondents.”
The results were fairly closely replicated across EU member states, although there were a number of national variations.
Most notably, in Poland where European shale gas development is at its most advanced almost a third of respondents said the energy source should be prioritised.
However, the report concluded that “in all 27 countries, renewable energy sources is the most mentioned priority for energy options in the next 30 years”. Support stood at over 80 per cent in Portugal, Austria, Spain, German and Denmark, with only Bulgaria and Romania seeing support drop below 50 per cent.
The findings were welcomed by European Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, who argued the results reveal “an understanding that we can not just keep using precious resources in the way we have in the past and continue to do today”.
“In relation to shale gas, I have always said that its future development will depend on the extent of public acceptance,” he added. “The fact that three quarters of Europeans say they would be concerned if a shale gas project were to be located in their neighbourhood bears that out.”
The poll also revealed strong public mandate for attempts to crack down on air pollution. Around nine out of 10 respondents said they regard respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as a “serious problem” and 72 per cent said public authorities are not doing enough to promote good air quality.
The report also found that “a large majority of Europeans (79 per cent) think that the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality-related problems in Europe”.