This Monday Questia Group focuses on attitudes towards the environment. Namely, we are interested in finding out whether the environment and its protection are considered important issues to Romanians, as well as whom they think is responsible for protecting the environment. Our research was made through an online survey on our platform www.questia.ro covering 703 respondents. The survey was active between 9 and 10 March 2017. Our findings are presented below.

Overview

Our survey had as a starting point the last special Eurobarometer – Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment - conducted in 28 Member States of the European Union between the 26th of April and the 11th of May 2014 by TNS Opinion & Social, at the request of the Directorate-General for Environment. According to the survey, for most Europeans, the acutest concerns relate to:

  • pollution of both air and water,
  • the amount of waste that is generated in the EU,
  • the depletion of natural resources and the impact of chemicals used in everyday life on people's health (2014, p.4).

Our findings are similar to the ones reported at the EU-level in 2014, but with some variations on main environmental concerns and behaviors. These variations come from many sources: from country-specific variables such as environmental regulations, the socio-economic context, the poor management of the Cohesion funds, issues of corruption as well as Romanian population’s concerns on some environmental issues over others.

In a nutshell, Romania had to make severe changes in the field of the environment during the EU accession and onwards, by implementing the EU acquis and transpose EU regulations into national laws. The main national target and part of Romania’s 2020 objectives are to improve the environment and living standards while ensuring resource efficiency, while the National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2013-2020-2030 recognizes technology as a key instrument to achieving a better environment.

Environmental issues have been on the public agenda in the last years, from the protests against government’s support to create Europe’s biggest opencast gold mine in Rosia Montana in 2013, to the protests against plans by U.S. energy group Chevron to explore for shale gas in Pungesti in 2013, as well as the recent ones against deforestation. A video made by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), exposed an Austrian company (Holzindustrie Schweighofer), which is the dominant player in the wood products market in Romania, willingly and knowingly accepting illegally harvested timber and incentivizing additional cutting through a bonus system. See more on this issue here.

Findings

Generally, when referring to the environment, the first things that come to Romanians minds are related to soil degradation (deforestation, mining, drainage etc.) in a proportion of 66.8%; the overall protection of the environment (59.4%); pollution in agriculture (the use of pesticides and fertilizers) in proportion of 51.4%; and the impact of chemicals used in everyday products/ foods on their health (47.7%), as well as climate change (46.7%) to name a few.

Attitudes towards the environment

This shows that the latest protests that were covered in the national and international media are still fresh in Romanians minds and have affected their general attitudes. Pollution and climate change are some priorities as well, along with depletion of natural resources (40.8%), loss or extinction of species and their habitats (40.8%) and ecological accidents (oil spills, industrial accidents etc.) (40.5%)

Responsabilities

The question of where responsibility should lie for repairing environmental damage and doing more to protect the environment have also been addressed in our survey. Here, the findings are similar to the ones at the EU-level. For instance, over three-quarters of the respondents consider that environmental issues have a direct effect on their daily life (79.% totally agree and 15.1% rather agree with this statement), while in the Eurobarometer 35% totally agree and 42% tend to agree with this statement. Moreover, in our survey, almost 60% consider that they can play a role in protecting the environment in Romania, while in the Eurobarometer 43% had the same approach.
Although we cannot compare the two studies, we can see that some trends in regards to environmental issues have maintained.

There is also a consensus that big companies and industries aren’t doing enough to protect the environment. In this sense, a substantial majority (71.8%) feel that big industries and companies aren’t doing enough, while only a tiny minority thinks the opposite (3%).

Romanians and the environment

Three-quarters of the respondents (75.7%) believe that citizens aren’t doing enough for the environment (77% in 2014), however, 58.9% totally agree that as an individual, they can play a role in protecting the environment in Romania. Two-quarters of Romanians are willing to pay a little more environmentally friendly product, similar to three-quarters at the EU level in 2014. In this sense, we addressed the extent to which Romanians feel they themselves can help protect the environment and what kind of green measures they already take if any.

Behaviors

As for the actions done to protect the environment, these relate to cutting down energy consumption (in 77.1% of cases), cutting down water consumption (68%), separating most waste for recycling (52.1%) and choosing an environmentally friendly way of traveling (46.7%). A 40.9% of cases is related to buying environmental friendly/ecological/bioproducts and food and 36.7% of cases are related to buying products or local foods based on a sustainable type of agriculture.

Romanians and the environment

See Markowitz and Doppelt’s article regarding reducing greenhouse gas emissions through behavioral changes, and my article that has their study as a starting point, here.

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