The European Commission adopted recently its State of the Energy Union Reports for 2021, taking stock of the progress that the EU is making in delivering the clean energy transition, nearly two years after the launch of the European Green Deal. While there are a number of encouraging trends, greater efforts will be required to reach the 2030 goal of cutting net emissions by at least 55% and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Unprecedented urbanization challenges population health in complex ways. In cities of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the rise in population rates and mass motorization is increasing health risks in urban populations. Therefore, cities drive innovation, economic growth, and social advancement but also cause health risks, environmental degradation, and foster inequities.


Big apartments, cars, and air travel contribute to a larger carbon footprint

Today, more than half of the world’s population is threatened by conditions endemic to city life, especially in LMICs where people are moving rapidly from rural areas to fast-developing cities.

On the flip side, studies from particular EU countries show us that higher-income earners usually consume more energy and resources than those with less cash. Along with top-level awareness and advocacy for responsible and sustainable growth, come the big apartments, cars, and air travel which contribute to a larger carbon footprint, says a German study exploring the roles income and environmental awareness play in the individual consumption of our planet’s resources.

People with higher incomes use more energy and resources than lower earners regardless of whether they see themselves as eco-friendly or not.

The survey conducted for the purposes of this study, asked thousands of Germans about their lives, ranging from eating, showering, driving, and vacation habits to how they dress, heat their homes, and how much they earn.

The “greens” (environmentally woke) tend to have energy-efficient household appliances, buy more organic produce and often eat less meat. But on the other side, they somewhat underestimate other aspects of their consumption, such as long-haul journeys. As a result, their overall CO2 emissions are significantly higher than low-income earners. Those with less money who don’t view themselves as being particularly sustainable in terms of resource use, actually pollute the environment least.

So, cash does make the difference in influencing sustainable living!

Food production, packaging, transportation, and disposal are among the main polluters

Another study in Turkey backs up the thesis on the relation between the environmental concern with income. It states that the priorities of lower-income people are more likely to meet the basic needs of their own families and concern for environmental issues can be ignored when compared to meeting these basic needs. However, higher-income people have the proper conditions for meeting basic needs such as adequate nutrition or health care. That’s why it is much more possible to be interested in environmental issues for them when compared to the lower-income people.

Is it safe to say that we only start contemplating environmental issues when we have met all our needs, no matter the environmental costs of it? And that’s why those with “drafty pockets” don’t pollute as much, but they would if they could? What is it that cities, experts, and decision-makers can do to even this out: make desires and possibilities meet without leaving a tremendous “battlefield mark” on our environment?

The EU Report in Numbers

The report shows that renewables overtook fossil fuels as the number one power source in the EU for the first time in 2020, generating 38% of electricity, compared to 37% for fossil fuels. To date, 9 EU Member States have already phased out coal, 13 others have committed to a phase-out date, and 4 are considering possible timelines. Compared to 2019, EU27 greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 fell by almost 10%, an unprecedented drop in emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought overall emission reductions to 31%, compared to 1990.

Primary energy consumption declined by 1.9% and final energy consumption by 0.6% last year. However, both figures are above the trajectory required to meet the EU’s 2020 and 2030 targets, and efforts need to continue to address this issue at Member State and EU levels. Fossil fuel subsidies dropped slightly in 2020, due to lower energy consumption overall. Renewable energy and energy efficiency subsidies both increase in 2020.