Too many EU citizens and businesses unaware of environmental issues

Raising awareness of environmental issues amongst EU citizens and businesses is the first step to achieving behavioural change and reducing the impact created by EU cities, says the European Commission's director-general for Environment.

In the closing session of Green Week in Brussels, Karl Falkenberg said that the environmental pressures, such as air pollution and resource consumption, are worse where the majority of Europeans live, work and consume “and that’s the cities and we have the vast majority of the European population in cities” he said.

“We need to understand and learn the ways in which cities can move forward by creating a healthy environment, where people are mobile where they work and consume. But doing this in respect of the environment”.

One scheme that Falkenberg is hoping will raise awareness is the European Green Capital which he says needs to achieve the status of fellow scheme, the European Cultural Capital.

“I think the green environmental capital of Europe should be at least as popular and as well-known as cultural centres because it will then carry the right message and give us an opportunity to focus on those issues. Next Friday there we will be a meeting in Nantes, this year’s green capital of Europe, to select the capital for 2015,” he said.

Backing Falkenberg’s comments, the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, said it was essential to encourage behavioural change in the EU and that if a strong uptake from citizens and businesses was not achieved, success in reducing the regions impact would be limited.

“Going beyond the maximum ecological physical reduction will need us to focus activities on behavioural changes and without that we have a limited chance of success. There are a lot of problems connected to raising awareness so we have to ask ‘do we understand and are we ready to act?”

Potocnik said that “awareness and behaviour change is where we have problems” because many of the environmental issues are “astonishing” but rarely feature on the front pages of newspapers.

“The facts are so astonishing yet we are obviously ready to tolerate the hidden killer while we are not ready to tolerate some more obvious unhidden killers”.

“Science based research connected with the public stream is the strongest possibility of driving change and one that we should take,” he said.

Leigh Stringer

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