The health and economic crisis that we have been experiencing since March has profoundly accelerated public awareness of the interrelationships between our health and the degradation of our environment. Before the confinement, air pollution was already a strong environmental concern for the French, which the current pandemic accentuates.
During the last quarter of 2019, Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, in collaboration with the BVA Institute, conducted an opinion survey among the region's inhabitants. This survey, carried out with the financial support of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, made it possible to update the perceptions and expectations of the general public regarding air quality. In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 8 out of 10 inhabitants say they are concerned about the quality of the air they breathe. This concern has increased by 5 points compared to the previous study conducted in 2013. Nevertheless, 64% of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes residents are convinced that their individual actions can make a difference. These results are in line with the strong aspiration of the French people for the ecological transition recently expressed at the ballot box and supported by the proposals of the citizens' convention on climate change. Mobility, heating, consumption, gardening practices... it is urgent to fully include air quality issues in local and territorial policies to accompany these changes.
Are residents right to be concerned? A perception of their air quality is ambiguous.
57% of them feel that the air quality in their region is good compared to the rest of the country. But just as many (58%) feel that air quality has deteriorated over the past 10 years.
This perception reflects an acute awareness of the situation but also an increased level of demand. Air quality has indeed improved over the last 10 years on regulated parameters, proof that the combination of individual efforts and public policies is bearing fruit. While the regional territory has met the thresholds set by the regulations for inhalable particles (PM10) for three consecutive years, 21,000 inhabitants are still exposed to values above the regulations for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 40% of the territory is in difficulty in the summer with regard to ozone levels in 2019 (target value).
Respecting the regulatory thresholds is an important step, as the various condemnations received by France, from the European Union in October 2019 and July 2020 or from the Council of State in 2017 and July 2020 are there to remind us. But we must not forget the long-term goal of complying with WHO health standards, particularly for particles crossing the respiratory barrier to be carried by the blood (PM2.5 in particular) and anticipating emerging pollution (not yet regulated).
Then the battle for air will have been won. A good transversality of the actions carried out within the framework of the ecological transition, particularly the recovery plan, is necessary to act usefully for air quality.
Auverhônalpins ready to change their practices: what are the levers for public action at the local and territorial level?
It is no longer time for debate but for action. The recent survey, carried out even before the health crisis, shows that 64% of Auvergne residents are convinced that their individual behavior can have a local impact on air quality. And more than 8 out of 10 inhabitants are ready to change their habits and behaviors to improve air quality. This willingness is even more pronounced among young people (15-17 years old) and those who feel that air quality is deteriorating.
Mobility, heating, consumption patterns, gardening practices, waste management... the inhabitants of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes are already taking action for better air. But the Atmo/BVA survey reveals that part of the population has not yet taken the plunge. This desire for change varies according to practices, but also according to age or place of residence. Public action has a major role to play in giving impetus to this desire for change and sustaining behavioral change.
Go further on the subject :
- This regional survey was fully funded by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region. It was conducted by the BVA Institute.
- The survey was conducted via the Internet from November 20 to 27, 2019 on a sample of 700 people aged 15 and over, representative of the inhabitants of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
- The representativeness of the sample was ensured thanks to the quota method applied to the following variables: gender, age, CSP of the household reference person and of the respondent, department and category of agglomeration.
- The changes mentioned refer to the survey conducted in 2013, which covered only the Rhône-Alpes region, which was extended to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in 2016.