Europeans reluctant to give up cars despite environmental concerns

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A majority of citizens believe that the use of less polluting vehicles and public transport should be promoted, but one in five would refuse to use their car less in exchange for better public transport, according to an EU opinion poll.

Although three quarters of European citizens are aware that driving has a negative impact on the environment and on traffic levels in their cities, cars remain the preferred mode of transport for 51% of the EU population, with just 21% using public transport primarily, according to a Eurobarometer survey published on 26 July.

And, even though two thirds of drivers said they could be persuaded to leave their cars at home if public transport services offered better schedules and connections closer to their homes, 22% said they would use their car less “under no circumstances”.

The survey, which comes two months ahead of a Commission consultation (Green Paper) on urban transport, also reveals that nine out of ten citizens think that the traffic situation in their region needs to be improved, notably by means of better public transport systems (49%), limitations in the city centre (17%) or speed limits (17%). Only 5% of respondents believe that introducing road charges will improve the traffic situation.

One quarter of respondents said they were already using public transport more in order to save fuel, but the majority said they preferred to adapt their driving style instead. Furthermore, in the past year, one quarter of citizens have changed to different vehicles that consume less fuel. 

The survey further shows that using more fuel-efficient vehicles is not only seen as a means of cutting fuel bills but as the most efficient means of reversing the rise in carbon dioxide emissions from road transport. Indeed, 35% of citizens said that the best way to reduce CO2 emissions would be to prohibit the sale of more polluting vehicles.

Another 30% said that CO2 levels could be cut most by offering tax incentives for purchasing fuel-efficient cars. 

Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said that the EU would work towards a transport policy “focused clearly on our citizens’ needs and expectations as reflected by this poll: better environmental protection, higher levels of safety, less congestion in big cities and stronger rights as consumers”.

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