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Young Europeans more likely to quit driving and have fewer children to save planet

They are willing to have smaller families, stop using cars and — albeit in smaller numbers — go vegan for the planet, but abandoning single-use plastics and growing a few more plants could be a step too far.

Across Europe, according to a seven-country survey, it seems young people are more willing than older generations to make big lifestyle changes that would help combat the climate crisis — but are less convinced by smaller gestures.

The YouGov polling for the Guardian also showed the economic downturn is hitting young people’s hopes for the future, with more than half saying they are worried they won't be able to own a home in the next decade.

The survey, carried out in August in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, also showed a large minority of 18- to 24-year-olds feel economic concerns could dissuade them from starting a family within the same timeframe.

Asked about what sacrifices they would be prepared to make to help fight global heating, 28% of 18-24 year-olds and 30% of 25-34-year-olds said they would be willing — or are already planning — to have fewer children than they would otherwise like.

That compared with figures of between 19% and 13% for older generations — most of whom are, however, already likely to be parents. But younger generations are also more likely to favour other significant lifestyle changes than older respondents.

They are more willing to give up cars, with 54% of 18-24-year-olds saying they would — or already did — only walk, cycle or use public transport, against 45% of people over the age of 65. Similarly, 41% would switch to an electric car against 21% of people over the age of 65.

While only 21% of 18-24 year-olds said they are willing to — or already had — cut meat and dairy out of their diet entirely, that was still a significantly higher proportion than in older cohorts (17% of 55-64-year-olds, and 13% of people over the age of 65).

For smaller changes, such as creating green space in their home, eating only seasonal produce, or never buying single-use plastics, older age groups are more likely to say they would be happy to make, or had already made, the change.

Similarly, younger generations appear more likely to support radical government measures in key policy areas than older cohorts, but are less favourable than their elders towards public policy moves that could be perceived as incremental.

A ban on the production and sale of petrol and diesel cars, for example, would have the support of 46% of 18-24 year-olds and 42% of 25- 24 year-olds, against 28% of 55-64-year-olds and just 22% of respondents over the age of 65.

• Guardian