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The EU commission last week set new targets to decrease the blocs emissions by 90% by 2040. Alamy Stock Photo
climate action

Voters across all age groups hold moderate view on EU climate action

A new poll has found younger voters are much more split on their assessment of the EU’s response to climate change.

ABOUT 40% OF the Irish public seem indifferent to the European Union’s response to the looming climate crisis as watchdog groups flag Ireland’s lag to fulfil its obligations.

The first edition in a series of The Journal/Ireland Thinks polls has found that those surveyed are quite neutral about the steps the EU is taking towards climate action, with 41% ranking it a 3 on a ranking scale where 1 is ‘very bad’ and 5 is ‘very good’.

Previous research conducted by the EPA shows that the Irish public cares about climate change – with at least 85% worried about it - but the new poll shows satisfaction with the EU’s response to the crisis is not high. The polling revealed an overall average rating of 2.8.

That average score was relatively consistent across the age groups, with a score of 3 the most popular selection across all six age ranges. 

The over 65s was the only category to have a positive average, at 3.2

Meanwhile, the youngest cohort of voters in Ireland (aged between 18-34) were less optimistic when it came to assessing the EU’s performance on climate change with few ranking it above a 3 on our scale.

Just 3% of the group gave the EU a 5 – or ‘very good – rating, showing relative pessimism about the work undertaken or planned. This jumped to 16% for those who gave the bloc a 4 on the scale, still lagging behind the 18% who believe the response is ‘very bad’ (a 1).

According to Kevin Cunningham from Ireland Thinks, we know from other, earlier polling that the vast majority of these negative views concern “the slow pace of the response to the climate crisis”.

“It is well understood that younger voters tend to be rather broadly in favour of a more aggressive response to climate change,” he says. 

What is the EU doing?

The EU Commission last week increased its targets to reduce emissions by 90%, and set  the deadline to do so at 2040. Just two days later, the bloc’s climate watchdogs said increasing these cuts were the only method to stop rising global temperatures.

Announcing the 2024 Climate Action Plan last December, environment minister Eamon Ryan celebrated Ireland’s drop in its coal and oil use and the increase in the use of solar power.

However, this was viewed as “really unsatisfactory” by Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisin Coghlan who criticised  the government’s timing for the plan’s publication, saying it should be released at a time that allows for more scrutiny.

Ryan said peaks in non-renewable energy use needed to drop “like a downhill skier” as later figures from the EU Commission showed Ireland was well behind when compared to its European counterparts.

The Commission’s figures reflected Ireland’s poor use of renewable energy, with previous reports reflecting a lag from previous Governments to keep up or comply with obligations.

As recent as last month, the Commission dropped a legal suit it took against the Irish State after it had failed to submit a climate plan on time. The case was only dropped after the Government moved to submit a plan at the 12th hour. The Department of Environment expects to send an updated version in the coming months.

Despite the Commission being hot-on-the-tail of the Irish Government to keep up with its Green Deal – which plans to halve emissions in just three years time and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – the public seem to be indifferent towards its response.

What the poll shows

Just 5% of Irish voters said the EU’s response to climate change was “very good” while 16% of voters said it was “very bad”. 

Those who vote for opposition parties, except Labour Party voters, had a poor view of the EU’s handling of the climate crisis while those who vote for current Government parties had a much more positive view. 

80% of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters and 95% of Green Party voters ranked the EU’s performance a 3 or higher. None of the Green Party voters ranked the EU’s response to climate change a 1

Meanwhile, 85% of Independent candidate voters, 86% of Sinn Féin voters, 88% of Social Democrats voters, 92% of Aontú voters and 93% of People Before Profit voters ranked the EU’s response between 1 and 3.

The Labour Party were the only outliers in opposition with very few (17%) ranking the EU’s response a 1 or a 2 while 83% ranked the response a 3 or a 4. None of the Labour voters said the response was “very good”.

The Journal/Ireland Thinks series of polls will run each month ahead of the European parliament elections in June. It will continue to explore voter intentions, measure Irish public sentiment towards the EU on a number of issues and highlight any potential opinion gaps between different demographics of Irish society on matters important to them. 

The poll of 1,255 people was carried out between the 2 and 7 February and has a  margin of error of 2.8%.


This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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