Ban short-haul flights, eat less meat: Europeans back climate over convenience in Oxford survey

Ban short-haul flights, eat less meat: Europeans back climate over convenience in Oxford survey

Two in three Europeans would support a ban on short haul flights and the same proportion say they would eat less meat to combat climate change, according to a new survey designed by a research team led by Professor Timothy Garton Ash, the leading Oxford academic.

eupinions carried out the survey in September for the Europe's Stories project at St Antony's College, covering all 27 EU member states and the UK. It revealed that Europeans of all age groups would like to see short flights banned, if the destination can be reached in 12 hours by train. More than half would support the pedestrianisation of city centres.

More than 50% would also use their car less often. Told about the impact of livestock production on greenhouse gas emissions, some 68% of those asked also said they would cut back on meat to help combat climate change. But only 1 in 5 people would be prepared to pay more tax.

A survey conducted for the same team in March, before months of lockdowns, found Europeans wanted faster action on climate change – but they were quite reluctant to allow the state to restrict anything they might enjoy.  Six months on and governments across the continent have implemented stringent measures on personal freedoms. Europeans now appear open towards making some changes to their lifestyles to tackle climate change, but are relatively reluctant to let the state restrict their decisions in most areas. However, just 16% said they would be unwilling to make any of the changes suggested.

With COVID-19 seeing flights restricted, respondents from all age groups were, however, content for restrictions on aviation. More than half of respondents said governments should only support national airlines financially with environmental strings attached, such as phasing out fuel-inefficient aircraft. And a remarkable 74% of those who used to fly regularly, said they would support a short-haul ban.

There was less enthusiasm for cutting back on meat eating – until the team presented participants with information about the environmental impact of meat consumption. But, according to the report, ‘The gender gap in attitudes to meat is striking... with 38% of men unprepared to reduce their meat consumption compared to 25% of women.’

Younger participants were more willing to accept dietary restrictions, with fewer than 40% unwilling for public venues only to give vegan or vegetarian options.  But, overall, 51% of Europeans would not accept the restriction of dietary choices, with 61% of over 50s rejecting any restrictions.

The team concluded, ‘Europeans are less willing to accept policy regulations on diesel and vehicle cars or on dietary choices in public spaces, ‘In contrast, however, the vast majority of Europeans are strong proponents of regulating air travel, be it through a ban on short flights or attaching green strings to airline bailouts.’

The Europe's Stories project research team is part of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College, Oxford.  This poll was part of a collaboration between that programme and the eupinions survey project of the Bertelsmann foundation. Europe's Stories is funded by the Mercator foundation, the Zeit foundation, and the Friedrich Naumann foundation.