Consumption Patterns in Arab Countries
AFED Public Opinion Survey
The Arab public is ready to pay more for energy and water and embrace changes in consumption patterns if this will help preserve resources and protect the environment, according to a survey carried out by Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) in 22 countries. However, good intentions and wishes of the public, as demonstrated in the survey results, are not enough, as putting change into action requires the introduction of appropriate enabling conditions by governments. While public awareness and education are important tools to demonstrate the benefits of sustainable consumption on human health and the environment, regulations and incentives are indispensable to transform intentions into action. Implementing energy and water conservation measures on a large scale requires revising subsidies. Renewable energy will not be deployed extensively as long as conventional fuels are sold at fraction of their real market price. Equally, phasing out subsidies needs to be accompanied by direct economic and social benefits, mainly job creation, providing education and health coverage, alongside securing appropriate income levels and pension schemes.
When a vast 84% majority of the people accept to eat more fish than red meat, which is better for the environment as well as health, the fact remains that good intentions cannot be transformed into action until fish is made available in abundant quantities and at affordable prices.
As safeguarding the environment and ensuring sustainable management of natural resources are the main driving concerns for consumption patterns, the survey also examined public attitudes regarding some general environmental challenges, focusing on water, energy and food. This allowed comparison with previous surveys carried by AFED on public opinion attitudes towards environmental challenges in 2006 (AFED Survey, 2006), and on climate change in 2009 (AFED, 2009). Comparison was also made with a survey carried out by Al-BiaWal-Tanmia (Environment & Development) magazine in 2000 (EDM, 2000).