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The fight against climate change requires collective action — from governments, institutions, businesses and individuals. A good understanding of the climate challenge is essential for people to make informed choices. To assess the public’s understanding of climate change in Estonia, the sixth edition of the EIB Climate Survey focuses on people’s knowledge of climate change in three key areas: definitions and causes, consequences, and solutions. Participants answered 12 questions and were ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 indicating the highest level of knowledge. With over 30 000 respondents across 35 countries, including the EU Member States, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, India and Canada, the EIB Climate Survey provides valuable insights into people’s overall understanding of climate change.

Key findings

  • Estonians rank 12th in the EU27 (score of 6.46/10), placing them slightly above the EU average of 6.37/10, according to the EIB survey. Finland leads the scoreboard with 7.22/10, followed by Luxembourg (7.19/10) and Sweden (6.96/10). Estonia ranks immediately after the Netherlands and ahead of Lithuania in a knowledge test on the causes and consequences of climate change and solutions to address it.
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  • Overall knowledge gaps: Estonians are well aware of the causes and consequences of climate change but there is room for improvement in their knowledge about solutions. Similarly to the findings in most EU countries, a large share of Estonian respondents did not know that reducing speed limits on roads (85%) or better insulating buildings (50%) can help combat climate change.

How well do people understand the causes of climate change?

The first sub-index focuses on the definition and causes of climate change. In this area, Estonians scored above the EU average (7.36/10 compared to 7.21/10), ranking 11th in the European Union.

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  • When it came to defining climate change, most Estonian respondents (74%) knew the definition, while only 8% believe that climate change is a hoax. 
  • Over two-thirds (68%, 6 percentage points below the EU average) are also aware that the main causes of climate change are human activities such as deforestation, agriculture, industry and transport. Meanwhile, a third of the respondents believe otherwise (24% thinking it is caused by extreme natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions and heatwaves, and 8% believing that climate change is caused by the ozone hole).
  • When asked about the three biggest greenhouse gas emitters worldwide, most Estonians (80%, 8 percentage points above the EU average) correctly selected the United States, China and India.

How aware are people of the consequences of climate change?

When asked about the consequences of climate change, Estonians scored 7.49/10 (ranking 16th in the European Union), which is a good score, albeit slightly below the EU average (7.65/10).

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  • 77% know that it has a negative impact on human health (for example, it can lead to an increase in air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulate matter).
  • 81% also correctly said that climate change is worsening world hunger by affecting crop yields due to extreme weather.
  • Regarding the impact of climate change on sea levels, 67% of Estonians correctly said that the global sea level is rising, but a third (33%) got it wrong: more specifically, 13% of respondents said that it is falling and 20% said that climate change has no specific impact on the sea level.
  • The impact of climate change on migration, with increased forced displacement worldwide, is clear for three-quarters of Estonian respondents (74%, 5 percentage points above the EU average).

Knowledge of how to combat climate change varies

In the last sub-index, Estonian respondents scored 4.53/10, above the EU average of 4.25 but still indicating significantly less knowledge of actions that can help mitigate climate change compared to the other two areas investigated. This highlights a general trend across EU countries, with most of them receiving low scores in this area. This score places Estonia sixth out of 27 EU countries.

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  • Most Estonians (70%) know that using recyclable products can help mitigate climate change.
  • 65% also correctly said that using public transport instead of an individual car is a step in the right direction.
  • But only half the respondents (50%, 6 percentage points above the EU average) seem to know that better insulating buildings can help fight climate change.
  • For now, only half of respondents (50%, 8 percentage points above the EU average) are aware that buying new clothes less frequently can help.
  • Very few respondents (15%, 11 percentage points below the EU average) seem to know that reducing the speed limit on roads could also help.
  • Finally, most Estonians are unaware of the significant impact that digital usage has on the climate, with only 10% saying that watching fewer videos online can help mitigate climate change.
  • Half (52%) were able to correctly define an individual’s carbon footprint as “the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by a person in a year.”

As the EU's financing arm, the EIB is investing in major projects across Estonia to support the country's green transition. Recent examples include investments in the modernisation of the Estonian railway network, including the upgrading of tracks, signalling and traffic control systems. The financing has increased the efficiency and safety of railway operations, while providing more attractive alternatives to fossil fuel dependent modes of transport and improving safety and journey times for passengers.

EIB Vice-President Thomas Östros:

“Climate change can only be limited if we work together. It is important to identify and address the knowledge gaps found in the EIB Climate Survey. At the EIB, we provide financing to fight climate change, but we also recognise our role in contributing to the debate and education around the issue. Education is a powerful tool for change. We are committed to complementing our financing with initiatives that promote climate awareness and knowledge. This is how we build a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.”

Background information

Data and methodology

The survey methodology, questionnaire and full dataset can be downloaded here.

About the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It is active in more than 160 countries and makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. You can find more information about the EIB and climate education here.

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