Green skepticism in the EU (European Union) has been found to be more pronounced than in neighboring regions, according to a comprehensive study by EBRD released today.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development highlights a growing divide in perceptions towards climate change and green initiatives, showing a complex landscape of environmental sentiment across Europe. The EBRD’s survey for its 2023/2024 transition report focused on eastern European EU member countries and compared them with non-EU countries like Tunisia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan.

EU’s Climate Change Skeptics and Disengaged Populations

The Chief Economist of EBRD, Beata Javorcik, expressed surprise at the results. According to the survey, a significant portion of the population in EU countries such as Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Germany, and Latvia consists of climate change skeptics and disengaged individuals.

Skeptics do not view climate change as a serious issue, whereas disengaged people recognize the problem but are reluctant to incur the costs associated with combating it. These groups represent a majority in the surveyed EU nations.

Trade-offs and Energy Concerns Fueling Skepticism

Javorcik suggested that the visibility of trade-offs in the EU, such as higher energy costs, may contribute to this skepticism. The cut in gas supplies by Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has led to increased energy prices, making consumers more cautious about the financial implications of a greener future. This situation has also impacted European industry competitiveness, as both consumers and workers feel the strain of rising energy costs.

Political Implications and the Rise of Far-Right Parties

The study also hints at potential political ramifications, with far-right parties expected to gain from the growing skepticism in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections.

The EBRD’s experience in transition countries shows that successful reforms require wide-ranging support, emphasizing the need for careful consideration of those affected by the transition to green policies.

A Call for a Balanced Approach

Javorcik warned against ignoring the needs of those negatively impacted by such changes, drawing parallels to the backlash against globalization in the U.S., where the benefits and losses were unevenly distributed.

As green skepticism in the EU becomes greater than its neighboring countries, it’s time for a balanced approach that considers the immediate costs and long-term benefits of environmental policies, ensuring broad-based support and minimizing resistance to change.

Image Source: Yale E360