Europeans who struggle to pay their household bills have little doubt about the dangers of climate change and agree on the need to tackle it. But they don’t feel they have the means to help and say it’s only fair that government, big business, and the rich, should shoulder the burden of weaning our continent off oil, gas and coal to protect the planet.
These are key findings of focus group research involving more than 900 participants in nine countries for the Fair Energy Transition for All project, FETA.
To be published on Thursday, March 17, these unique and detailed insights into the concerns of Europe’s poorest will inform policy ideas for structuring a transition to clean energy that can win support across communities and avoid a deepening of inequalities that could derail efforts to transform our housing and transport.
As gas bills skyrocket this month due to conflict on the borders of the EU, it’s clear many Europeans today have little margin to switch to greener but pricier clean energy, whether at home or on the road. Many in the focus groups said they are already doing all they can to save energy – though for reasons of economy, not ecology. Participants also gave voice to an acute sense of social injustice over basic living costs and a mistrust of politicians, highlighting the challenges ahead for policymakers to secure their consent.
“I live on benefits – what can I do about climate change! And why should I, when all those big firms are polluting the environment without paying a penny?” said one participant in Germany.
A Spanish farmer commented: “Putting up energy costs wipes out our profits, and you can’t run a tractor on pedal-power. In the end, we’ll have to stop farming, and then who will live in these villages?”
FETA was launched by six leading philanthropic institutions to explore how the European Union and national authorities can deliver on pledges to drive down household carbon emissions without the kind of popular backlash that met a climate-inspired fuel tax hike by the French government in 2018. Spontaneous protests by the “yellow vest” movement forced the authorities in Paris to back down.
At the initiative of the King Baudouin Foundation and with the support of five other philanthropic institutions - the Open Society European Policy Institute/OSF, the Mercator Stiftung, IKEA Foundation, the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt and the Fondazione Cariplo - focus groups were held over the past year in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland. Their findings are being developed into policy recommendations, which will be delivered in autumn 2022.
For further details, please contact Alastair Macdonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and +32 471 711 555.