Climate crisis: generational and political divides in France

(Source: European Investment Bank)

The first part of the 2021-2022 EIB Climate Survey explores people’s views on climate change in a rapidly changing world. The results from this release focus on citizens’ perceptions of climate change and the actions they expect their country to take to combat it. 

  • 83% of French people think that climate change and its consequences are the biggest challenge for humanity
  • 74% believe that they are more concerned about the climate emergency than their government
  • 71% feel that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives
  • 40% think the country will succeed in drastically reducing its carbon emissions by 2050, as pledged in the Paris Agreement
  • 73% are in favour of stricter government measures that impose changes on people’s behaviour (seven points higher than last year)
  • 70% would welcome a tax on products and services that contribute most to global warming

83% of French people think that climate change and its consequences are the biggest challenge for humanity in the 21st century. This figure is greater than 70% across all age groups and political leanings of the French population.

However, this apparent consensus hides significant gaps between different groups of the French population. There are very diverse levels of concern and expectations on the topic of the climate among younger and older citizens, as well as among people who have left-leaning and right-leaning political views.

These are some of the results from the first release of the 2021-2022 Climate Survey published today by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB is the lending arm of the European Union and the world’s largest multilateral lender for climate action projects.

Perception of the climate crisis

The vast majority of French people (71%) feel that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives. While this is particularly marked among 15-29-year-olds (78%), this figure drops 16 points (62%) for people older than 64. 76% of people who have left-leaning political views say they feel this impact in their everyday lives, which is 10 points higher than for those who have right-leaning political views (66%).

74% believe that they are more concerned about the climate emergency than their government. As a consequence, they are fairly pessimistic regarding their country’s capability to undergo an ambitious green transition. Only 40% think that France will succeed in drastically reducing its carbon emissions by 2050, as pledged in the Paris Agreement. The generational gap here is particularly telling, with a 22-point difference between people younger than 30 (51% of them believe France will succeed) and people older than 64 (29%). 71% of people over 64 believe France will actually fail to meet the 2050 deadline. 66% of people with left-leaning political views share this pessimism, which is seven points higher than the figure for people with right-leaning political views (59%).

As a consequence, almost three-quarters (73%) of French people are in favour of stricter government measures that impose changes on people’s behaviour (seven points higher than last year, 66%).

Meanwhile, only 5% of French people who have left-leaning political views believe that global warming is not due to human activities, which is 11 points below the figure for people with right-leaning political views (16%). Furthermore, 22% of French people who have far-right political leanings are still sceptical about humans being the main cause of the climate crisis.

The energy debate

When asked about the source of energy their country should rely on to fight global warming, the majority of French people favour renewable energies (54%) to address the climate emergency. This sentiment is shared even more by Europeans as a whole (63%). Support for renewables in France is seen strongly among people younger than 30 (63% in favour). This figure drops 22 points for people over 64 (41%). French people with left-leaning political views support renewables more strongly than those with right-leaning political views (61% compared to 48%, a difference of 13 points).

French people overall are slightly more supportive of nuclear energy than other Europeans (16% vs. 12%). In France, men (23%) and people older than 64 (27%) are much more in favour of nuclear energy than women (9%) and people younger than 30 (8%). People with right-leaning political views in France are much more in favour of the development of nuclear energy (24%) compared to those with left-leaning political views (11%).

Finally, French people are slightly more likely to think that their country should rely on energy savings than other Europeans (20% vs. 17%). French respondents over 64 are particularly in favour of this option (28%). This is 16 points more than for respondents younger than 29 (only 12% in favour of saving energy as a priority).

Most popular solutions to fight climate change among French respondents

The majority of French people (70%) would support – similar to other Europeans (69%) – the introduction of a tax on products and services that contribute most to global warming. Even 66% of respondents with lower incomes would be in favour of such a tax in France. They are also in favour of a 5-year minimum warranty on any electric or electronic product (92%) and replacing short-distance flights with fast, low-emission trains (88%). They also favour softer measures like strengthening education and increasing youth awareness of sustainable consumption (91%).

EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said: “Despite clear generational and political divides, a strong majority of French people would like stricter measures and tools, such as cleaner energy sources, to help them fight climate change. In the perspective of COP 26, this strengthens our determination to increase our efforts and accelerate the ecological transition. As the European climate bank, the role of the EIB is to finance projects focused on clean energy, energy savings, sustainable mobility solutions and innovations that will help limit the rise in temperature to 1.5 ° C or less.”  

Download the Excel spreadsheet with the raw data for all 30 countries surveyed here. Please click here to access the EIB website that presents key findings of the EIB Climate Survey IV.

About the EIB Climate Survey

The European Investment Bank has launched the fourth edition of the EIB Climate Survey, a thorough assessment of how people feel about climate change. Conducted in partnership with market research firm BVA, the fourth edition of the EIB Climate Survey aims to inform the broader debate on attitudes and expectations in terms of climate action. More than 30 000 respondents participated in the survey between 26 August and 22 September 2021, with a representative panel for each of the 30 countries polled.

About the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and is owned by the EU Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals both in Europe and beyond. The European Investment Bank is active in around 160 countries and is one of the world’s largest multilateral lenders for climate action projects. The EIB Group has recently adopted its Climate Bank Roadmap to deliver on its ambitious agenda to support €1 trillion of climate action and environmental sustainability investments in the decade to 2030 and to deliver more than 50% of EIB finance for climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025. As part of the Roadmap, all new EIB Group operations have also been aligned with the goals and principles of the Paris Agreement since the start of 2021.

About BVA

BVA is an opinion research and consulting firm recognised as one of the most innovative market research firms in its sector. Specialised in behavioural marketing, BVA combines data science and social science to make data inspiring and bring it to life. BVA is also a member of the Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research (WIN), a global network of some of the world’s leading market research and survey players, with over 40 members.

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