>@ Cristian Negroni /Getty Images
© Cristian Negroni /Getty Images

The first part of the 2021-2022 EIB Climate Survey explores people’s views on climate change in a rapidly changing world. The results from this release focus on citizens’ perceptions of climate change and the actions they expect their country to take to combat it. 

  • 73% of Austrians think that climate change and its consequences are the biggest challenge for humanity in the 21st century
  • 66% believe that they are more concerned about the climate emergency than their government
  • 70% feel that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives
  • 67% think the country will fail in drastically reducing its carbon emissions by 2050, as pledged in the Paris Agreement
  • 64% are in favour of stricter government measures that impose changes on people’s behaviour (seven points higher than last year)
  • 66% would welcome a tax on products and services that contribute most to global warming
  • 83% say they want to replace short-distance flights by fast, low-polluting trains in collaboration with neighbouring countries

73% of Austrians think that climate change and its consequences are the biggest challenge for humanity in the 21st century.

However, this apparent consensus hides significant gaps between different groups of the Austrian population. Very diverse levels of concern and expectations on the topic of the climate can be seen among younger and older citizens, among people who have left-leaning and right-leaning political views, among men and women, and across different socioeconomic categories.

There is a marked difference among people with different political views: 86% of those with left-leaning political views say that climate change is the biggest challenge for humanity in the 21st century, compared to 61% of those with right-leaning political views. 80% of 15-29 year-old respondents agree with this statement, while 72% (a drop of eight points) of respondents older than 65 agree.

These are some of the results from the first release of the 2021-2022 Climate Survey published on October 27 by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB is the lending arm of the European Union and the world’s largest multilateral lender for climate action projects.

Perception of the climate crisis: The country’s fight against climate change

The vast majority of Austrians (70%) feel that climate change has an impact on their everyday lives (seven points below the European average of 77%).

While this perception is particularly marked among 15-29 year-olds (76%), the figure drops seven points (69%) for people older than 64. 83% of people who have left-leaning political views say they feel this impact in their everyday lives, which is 27 points higher than for those who have right-leaning political views (56%).

66% believe that they are more concerned about the climate emergency than their government. As a consequence, they are very sceptical regarding their country’s capability to undergo an ambitious green transition. Only 33% think that Austria will succeed in drastically reducing its carbon emissions by 2050, as pledged in the Paris Agreement. The vast majority (67%) think that Austria will fail to meet its reduced carbon emission targets. There is a limited generational gap, with a 10-point difference between people younger than 30 (38% of them believe Austria will succeed) and people older than 64 (28%). 72% of people over 64 believe Austria will actually fail to meet the 2050 deadline. 62% of 15-29 year-old respondents share this pessimism. 71% of people with left-leaning political views share this pessimism, which is 11 points higher than the figure for people with right-leaning political views (60%).

As a consequence, almost two-thirds (64%) of Austrians are in favour of stricter government measures — similar to the ones implemented to combat the COVID-19 crisis — that would impose changes on people’s behaviour (seven points higher than last year).

Meanwhile, 13% of Austrian people believe that global warming is not due to human activities. Only 6% of Austrians who have left-leaning political views believe that global warming is not due to human activities, which is 14 points below the figure for people with right-leaning political views (20%).

The energy debate

When asked about the source of energy their country should rely on to fight global warming, the majority of Austrian people favour renewable energies (65%) to address the climate emergency (close to the EU average of 63%). Austrians with left-leaning political views support renewables more strongly than those with right-leaning political views (74% compared to 61%, a difference of 13 points). Support for renewable energies is consistent across income groups: 66% of lower-income earners would support the further development of renewable energies, compared to 70% of higher-income earners.

Austrians are much less supportive of nuclear energy than other Europeans (4% vs. 12%). In Austria, people older than 64 (1%) are less in favour of nuclear energy than people younger than 30 (7%). The gender gap is noticeable: men (6%) are much more in favour of nuclear energy than women (2%). People with right-leaning political views in Austria are much more in favour of the development of nuclear energy (8%) compared to those with left-leaning political views (4%).

Finally, Austrians are more likely to think that their country should rely on energy savings than other Europeans (23% vs. 17%). Austrian respondents over 64 are particularly in favour of this option (26%). This is eight points more than for respondents younger than 29 (only 18% favour of saving energy as a priority). Saving energy is ranked far above an increased role for natural gas (5%).

Most popular solutions to fight climate change among Austrians

The majority of Austrian people (66%, close to the EU average of 69%) would support the introduction of a tax on products and services that contribute most to global warming. Even 66% of respondents with lower incomes would be in favour of such a tax in Austria. Austrians are also in favour of a 5-year minimum warranty on any electric or electronic product (88%) and replacing short-distance flights with fast, low-emission trains (83%). They also favour softer measures like strengthening education and increasing youth awareness of sustainable consumption (91%).

EIB Vice-President Thomas Östros said: “Despite some generational and sociodemographic divides, a strong majority of people in Austria want stricter measures and tools, such as cleaner energy sources, to help them fight climate change. In the course of COP26, this strengthens our determination to increase our efforts and accelerate the ecological transition. As the European climate bank, the role of the EIB is to finance projects focusing on clean energy, energy savings, sustainable mobility solutions and innovations that help limit the rise in temperature to 1.5 °C or less.”  

Download the Excel spreadsheet with the raw data for all 30 countries surveyed here. Please click here to access the EIB website that presents key findings of the EIB Climate Survey IV.

About the EIB Climate Survey

The European Investment Bank has launched the fourth edition of the EIB Climate Survey, a thorough assessment of how people feel about climate change. Conducted in partnership with market research firm BVA, the fourth edition of the EIB Climate Survey aims to inform the broader debate on attitudes and expectations in terms of climate action. More than 30 000 respondents participated in the survey between 26 August and 22 September 2021, with a representative panel for each of the 30 countries polled.

About the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank is active in around 160 countries and is one of the world’s largest multilateral lenders for climate action projects. The EIB Group has recently adopted its Climate Bank Roadmap to deliver on its ambitious agenda to support €1 trillion of climate action and environmental sustainability investments in the decade to 2030 and to deliver more than 50% of EIB finance for climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025. As part of the Roadmap, all new EIB Group operations have also been aligned with the goals and principles of the Paris Agreement since the start of 2021.

About BVA

BVA is an opinion research and consulting firm recognised as one of the most innovative market research firms in its sector. Specialised in behavioural marketing, BVA combines data science and social science to make data inspiring and bring it to life. BVA is also a member of the Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research (WIN), a global network of some of the world’s leading market research and survey players, with over 40 members.