03 Aug 2023, 13:24
Julian Wettengel

Must focus on social dimension of climate-friendly transformation, survey shows – UBA head

Clean Energy Wire

While the vast majority (91%) of Germans support a climate and environmentally-friendly economic transformation, many worry that it could lead to social injustice and threaten their own status, the 2022 environmental Awareness Study by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) shows. “Until now we haven’t talked enough about the social dimension,” said UBA director Dirk Messner at a press conference presenting the results of the survey, which is conducted every two years. 41 percent of all respondents and 54 percent of respondents in eastern German states expect the transformation to have negative effects on social justice. 39 percent of all respondents and about half of the respondents with low per capita income are afraid of a social decline due to the transformation – an “alarming number”, which could be seen as a call for the government to act, Messner said. It had to communicate better and adapt its policy: “If people are in favour of climate protection but worry about the social consequences, then we need to design policies in a way that the social challenges are taken into account.”

As an example, the environmental agency head outlined EU plans to introduce a carbon price for fuels used for transport and buildings from 2028, which would increase energy costs for households using fossil fuels in cars or for heating. The German government has to get serious about implementing the “climate bonus” (Klimageld) it has promised to help cushion the effects on lower-income households in particular. With this annual per-capita payment – the same for each person – the state would return the revenues from carbon pricing, but the introduction has been delayed. “This has to come now,” Messner said.

Overall, the survey showed a “slight dent” in people’s awareness of environmental and climate issues, due to the crisis situation in the recent past, said Messner. About 57 percent of respondents said these were very important, down from about 65 percent in the previous editions. The survey took place in summer 2022, at the height of the energy crisis, which was fuelled by Russia’s war on Ukraine and led to record-high prices. The most important issue was the healthcare system, followed by education, social justice, war and terrorism, and then the environment and climate protection. A large majority of Germans (85%) say they feel the strong or very strong consequences of climate change, in the form of drought and low water levels, for example, the survey showed.

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