Climate change is still perceived as the top concern in several (mostly northern) European countries, despite the global health threat through the coronavirus pandemic, research released by Swedish utility Vattenfall found.

“It is clear that our emotions towards climate change remain unchanged even in the wake of a global health crisis,” Vattenfall chief executive Magnus Hall said.

“As a company that produces and supplies energy, our ability to make an impact is considerable and this report highlights that.

“We are fully committed, throughout our entire 20,000-person business, to make fossil free living possible within one generation and to help partners and industries to electrify transports and processes and thereby replace fossil fuels.”

The new survey commissioned by Vattenfall among people in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, France and the UK follows up on a study released in December 2019, which explored people’s attitudes and emotional response to climate change.

Both the first and the second round found that climate change was seen as the most serious problem in the world, ahead of issues such as poverty, wars and conflict, or economic recession.

Twenty-eight percent of those polled in June saw climate change as the world’s most pressing issue, compared to 32% in December 2019.

At the same time epidemics and diseases were perceived as the most pressing global threat by 20% in June, up from 6% in December, but still not surpassing climate change. Wars and conflict, lack of food and water, poverty and economic recession followed as most pressing issues in the eyes of those surveyed.

As many as 69% of people describe themselves as “quite” or “a great deal” worried about climate change.

“These results should provide comfort. They show that our concern and duty of care for the world can be awakened during times of immense crisis – when we feel part of something much bigger,” said US psychologist Renee Lertzman, who was consulted by Vattenfall.

“They also indicate that the durable and consistent anxieties and worries about climate change amidst such global health challenges can be a good thing. Ultimately they will drive us to action.”

The results also found that most respondents (57%) believe that the highest priority should be given to continuing or increasing climate change commitments when it comes to ongoing financial recovery discussions across Europe.

The EU in the wake of its €750bn post-Covid-19 stimulus package and its more than €1 trillion 2021-2027 budget has stipulated that 30% of EU policies and programmes are earmarked for climate action measures to reach the economic block's 2050 net zero pledge.

As a crucial part of its European Green Deal efforts, the European Commission late last month has launched a public consultation on its future offshore renewable energy strategy that is key to its 2030 and 2050 climate ambitions.

The survey was commissioned by Vattenfall and carried out by TNS Kantar among more than 7,200 adults in late November and early December 2019, and again in late June 2020.