Public concern grows over nature loss

Posted on May, 18 2021

Public concern for nature has risen by 16% globally in the past five years and continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research [1], conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by WWF, shows.
In the EU, over nine in ten (93%) citizens consider biodiversity loss a serious or very serious issue, the data reveals [2] reflecting the 2019 Eurobarometer on the same issue [3]. The figures come ahead of International Day for Biodiversity being held on 22 May by the UN to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
The EU is not the only region with such high numbers of concerned citizens, with the most dramatic growth in concern found in emerging and developing economies. In Latin America, 96% of respondents consider biodiversity loss as a serious issue, the highest of any region surveyed. This shift in public sentiment reflects a hard reality, as people in emerging markets are most likely to experience the devastating impact of nature loss.
Sabien Leemans, Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity at the WWF European Policy Office, said:
“The results of this research are crystal clear: concern about nature loss and ecosystem degradation is shared by people all over the world and many are already feeling more acutely the impacts of deforestation, unsustainable fishing, species extinction and the decline of ecosystems. The EU has the perfect opportunity to heed the public’s concern and start reversing nature loss, including through an ambitious implementation of the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the large scale restoration of high-quality nature that’s been promised as part of it.”
The report, entitled An Eco-wakening: Measuring global awareness, engagement and action for nature, also finds that digital activism is playing a prominent role in awareness raising, with a 65% increase since 2016 in the number of Twitter [4] mentions of biodiversity and nature loss worldwide, increasing from 30m to 50m. Social media posts in the same period reached a combined audience of almost 1bn people worldwide. The rise in online activity appears to translate into real world action, with the report finding that more consumers around the world are changing their consumption patterns in line with environmental values [5], and more than 159 million signatures have been collected as part of campaigns demanding action on biodiversity since 2016. WWF has dubbed this rapidly growing global mood eco-wakening’.
In Europe, the online trends are even more striking. Between 2016 and 2020, the EU countries [6] covered by the report saw a 290% increase in the number of Twitter mentions of terms related to biodiversity and nature loss. Meanwhile, the number of Google searches for terms related to biodiversity and nature loss increased by 79% [7].
In the coming weeks and months, the EU institutions will have several opportunities to take action on nature loss. On 26-27 May, the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee will hold a vote on the Biodiversity Strategy, followed by a plenary vote in June [8]. Strong calls from the MEPs on the protection and restoration of nature will set the stage for when the European Commission is expected to propose legally binding EU nature restoration targets later in the year, as part of the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. These legally binding targets will require a new legal instrument that presents a major opportunity for turning the tide against biodiversity loss while also contributing to climate mitigation and adaptation [9].
For more information on the eco-wakening trend, to share your experiences, and get involved to safeguard nature and set it on a path to recovery by 2030 go to WWF International.

For further information:
Sabien Leemans
Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer
Bartosz Brzezinski
Communications Officer for Biodiversity & Agriculture
Tel. +32 484 28 15 10
Notes to editors:
[1] Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and commissioned by WWF, measures engagement, awareness and action for nature in 27 languages, across 54 countries globally, covering 80% of the world’s population, over five years (2016-2020). Analysis using Google Trends shows a 16% increase in the popularity of google searches, with most growth in Asia and Latin America.

[2] Data available for France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
[4] Analysis of global Twitter mentions of nature and biodiversity terms using Meltwater, with the following having the highest amount of traction #wildlife (2M) #earthday (2M) #nature (1M) and #biodiversity (1M).

[5] Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden
[6] EIU analysis using Google Trends comparing the popularity of the top five most popular nature-loss and biodiversity terms across 54 countries, using both English and the dominant local language. Google Trends data was collected for each week from January 2016 to October 2020. Search terms included: wildlife, biodiversity, wildfires, deforestation and endangered species. The number of Twitter mentions relating to nature and biodiversity increased the most for countries in Asia (38%), and Latin America (136%) between 2016-2019.
[7] EIU analysis using Google Trends data on the popularity of searches for environmentally friendly products across all 54 countries in the study, using English language only. Individual country search trends were evaluated using local-language search terms as well as English. Search terms included: Biodiversity, Sustainable, Ecological, Biodegradable, Environmentally. Google Trends data was collected for each week from January 2016 to October 2020. Additional research shows that in a recent online survey of 6,000+ people world-wide, 50% of survey respondents said they switched products or services because a company violated their values. The number one reason cited for the switch was to support products or services that ‘protect the environment’. Source: Hotwire Survey, 2019.
[8] Exact date to be confirmed.
[9] WWF and 19 other NGOs have made recommendations on the key elements of the restoration law
Public concern for nature has risen by 16% globally in the past five years and continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic
© WWF-US / Keith Arnold