Climate Action Survey results 2023: Students and staff united to drive strong action

Posted in: Climate Action Survey 2023

The results of the Climate Action Survey 2023 are in… Both students and staff have high levels of concern about the climate crisis but state a need for greater support and information to help change their behaviour.

In this year’s Climate Action Survey, we surveyed our staff and students to better understand their current awareness of climate change and the University’s response to the climate crisis we are facing. 

There was an increase in participation in this year’s survey compared to 2022, with a total of 4764 respondents – 14 per cent of students and 41 per cent of staff shared their answers. The results from this survey will help our community to continue working towards achieving the goals of our Climate Action Framework (CAF), as well as helping the University to track progress towards its target of having net zero carbon emissions by 2040. We would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who took the time to complete the survey. 

This year’s survey was a Living Lab project made in collaboration with the University’s Psychology department. A Living Lab uses the University as a research experiment to help meet both our academic and operational aims. The survey was developed and analysed in collaboration with Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Dr Paul Haggar and Kaloyan Mitev.

“The new survey results again show our community wants more action to be taken on climate change - but needs support to take action themselves. This is consistent with what we find in our research with the wider public. Reaching carbon targets requires behaviour change and this means making low-carbon behaviour easy, attractive and normal. The survey provides clear insights on which measures by the university are more supported, spanning teaching, research, and operations, which the CAF team can take forward in their work” - Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh

The results are in… what did you have to say?

Key headlines:

  • High levels of concern about climate change in our community; students and staff both support strong action by the University to tackle the issue, and are willing to change their own behaviours but state that they require support to do so. 
  • The majority of respondents revealed that they are experiencing some level of worry or ‘eco-anxiety’ about climate change. 
  • Our community believes that the University is taking sufficient action to address the climate emergency, but with insufficient urgency. 
  • Students and staff admit to being unsure about specific actions taken by the University, their effectiveness and how they compare to other universities. As a result, the validity of the community's response is uncertain. This highlights that additional communication and engagement measures are necessary.
  • Staff and students support the development of policies that guide the University's choice of partners
  • Students are motivated to make individual lifestyle changes such as using public transport more frequently, but face barriers when it comes to making those changes a reality. 
  • 58 per cent of staff are in favour of incorporating climate action as a recognised aspect of the workload model, requiring all employees to address it as part of their job.

University priorities: Making the greatest climate impact

The survey results showed that many of the suggestions for CAF priority actions aligned with areas in which work is already ongoing or being considered. These include:

Carbon reduction and energy efficiency: The University is working to reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency across campus. Further measures being considered include investing in renewable energy, improving building insulation and lighting and encouraging sustainable transportation.

Research and innovation: Through the University’s research, we have a platform for innovation, experimentation and learning. This research is being used to address the complex challenges of climate change and hopes to support wider societal and systems transformation. 

Curriculum development: The University has seen an increase in the incorporation of climate change and sustainability into its curriculum, across a range of disciplines. This can involve embedding climate into existing courses, creating new courses and programmes that focus on climate and sustainability, as well as offering co-curricular opportunities to develop students’ ‘green’ skills.

In the spotlight: 12 of the biggest things you need to know from the Climate Action Survey results in 2023

  1. Climate change presents a significant wellbeing challenge to students and staff, with many experiencing climate worry. 19 per cent of students and 25 per cent of staff stated they are “extremely worried” about climate change. While this worry can develop into ‘eco-anxiety’ and become overwhelming, the evidence does show that it can also serve as a motivator for action against climate change. Those feelings of stress brought on by climate change can lead to increased activity in individuals, such as participating in protests, advocating for policy changes or making personal lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint.
  2. 28 per cent of students said the University’s response to the climate emergency was important in terms of student recruitment.
  3. 17 per cent of staff agreed or strongly agreed that they would consider leaving if the University doesn’t act more meaningfully on the climate emergency, while 30 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that they would switch jobs if an alternative University or organisation takes more action.
  4. 43 per cent of staff said that the University is taking meaningful action on the climate emergency.
  5. 41 per cent of students feel that their personal contributions to tackling climate change are sufficient.
  6. Staff feel that insufficient knowledge is their biggest barrier to taking action against climate change, whereas for students, it is financial reasons. 
  7. 58 per cent of staff are in favour of incorporating climate action as a recognised aspect of the workload model, requiring all employees to address it as part of their job.
  8. 76 per cent of students experience climate or sustainability education through their course in one form or another.
  9. More than half of staff and two-thirds of students are aware of the University’s Sustainable Food Commitment, which was introduced in September 2022.
  10. Bus remains the most popular mode of transport for students to travel to University. They are travelling more now than pre-Covid, taking 4.05 single trips each week by bus, compared to 3.72 pre-2020.
  11. Both staff and students show support for various policy measures aimed at reducing commuting emissions in the University, with the highest level of support for improving and electrifying bus services. Both parties also highlighted their support for creating more cycle paths and providing incentives to reduce travel emissions to and from campus.
  12. 31 per cent of students and 33 per cent of staff think the University should fully commit to the Fossil Free Careers Campaign. 51 per cent of students and 42 per cent of staff think that students should have the freedom to choose their own career paths, regardless of a company's impact on the climate. There was widespread support from staff and students for the University to support students in becoming change makers in whatever industry or career they choose.

Behind the scenes: How and why the survey was developed

This year's Climate Action Survey aimed to track progress towards net zero goals, gather community feedback, increase awareness of the CAF and identify opportunities and challenges for future decision-making. 

The survey, designed with the Department of Psychology team, covered topics such as carbon footprint, eco-anxiety, travel, education, partnerships and perceptions of the University's response to the climate crisis. 

The survey was disseminated through email lists and online platforms, achieving a 41 per cent response rate from staff and a 14 per cent response rate from students, with a representative sample across all demographics. 

The survey outcomes will measure progress towards the University's objectives and gather authentic community feedback, thereby driving more meaningful action and increasing the urgency and scale of the University's response.

This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the results from this year’s survey. In the next blog post, we will put the spotlight on eco-anxiety and community worry about climate change. 


  • This survey was conducted in November 2022.
  • This survey was completed by 4764 respondents, representing 41 per cent of University staff and 14 per cent of students.
  • This survey was commissioned by the Climate Action team with methodology devised and results analysed by Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Dr Paul Haggar and Kaloyan Mitev.
  • Members of the University of Bath community can access the collated survey data.
  • If you have any questions about this survey, please contact climateaction@bath.ac.uk

Posted in: Climate Action Survey 2023

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