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Generation Overwhelmed: Youth Climate Action Survey Brief

November 2023


Graham Dobbs

Graham Dobbs

Sabrina Bowman

Sabrina Bowman


Sam Andrey
André Côté
Nina Rafeek Dow
Mariana Rodrigues





As Canadian representatives gather with counterparts from around the world at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), it is a significant moment to take stock of the attitudes of younger Canadians about their personal actions to address climate change. This brief presents the findings of a survey that was conducted three times between February 2022 and September 2023. 

Two and half years ago, the Dais, in partnership with New Majority, embarked on Generation Climate, an initiative to speak to 270,000 young Canadians across the country about climate change. In addition to thousands of one-on-one conversations, we engaged Abacus Data to ask a representative sample of younger Canadians aged 18 to 43 three important questions:

  • Do you think you should reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Do you feel you are personally able to take action to reduce climate change?
  • If not, why not?

Summary of Findings

  • Since early 2022, younger Canadians have reported a marked decline in their sense of responsibility concerning climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. 
  • The harsher economic conditions and gloomy global outlook in 2023 could contribute to uncertainty around the rising cost of living and housing unaffordability, wars and severe climate events.
  • Despite this, specific communities and populations in Canada remain resilient in the concern for climate action - notably, those aged 18-29, newcomers and visible minorities.
  • This survey's findings show that the reasons why younger Canadians are not taking climate action have shifted from ‘not knowing where to start or how to help’ to ‘finding the problem too big or requiring too much change’ over the study period. 

Overall, younger Canadians have reported a decline in their responsibility to reduce climate change from February 2022 to September 2023. Among the youngest of this cohort, Canadians ages 18-29 generally feel more responsible for taking climate action; however, this sentiment is only slightly above the average as of September 2023.

Figure 1 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction

Relative to those born in Canada, young Canadian immigrants are more motivated to take personal action on climate change and have seen little change in feeling the responsibility to do more to reduce emissions since the beginning of 2022.

Figure 2 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction by Immigration Status

Similarly, younger Canadians who identify as visible minorities reported the need to do more to reduce climate change and personal greenhouse gas emissions than the rest of younger Canadians.

Figure 3 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction by Visible Minority Status

Responsibility for climate action and personal emissions is also higher among Canadians aged 18-29, who report being more interested and motivated to act than their older peers.

Figure 4 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction by Age

While our fastest growing and youth populations remain motivated to reduce climate change, regional and economic declines in taking climate action have emerged over the last two years.   

Outside of Ontario, younger Canadians are less motivated to be personally responsible and do a lot more to reduce GHG emissions.

Figure 5 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction by Region

Younger Canadians with higher household incomes also report declining motivation to reduce personal GHG emissions significantly since the beginning of 2022 relative to the less economically advantaged.

Figure 6 - Graph on Perceptions on Personal GHG reduction by Income

The study also investigated why younger Canadians are not acting on climate change. 56% of younger Canadians said in September 2023 that they feel personally able to take action to reduce climate change - a level unchanged from 2022. For the 44% who do not feel able to take action, the responses show a shift in reasoning from not knowing how to contribute to reduction to feeling the problem is too big or too much change is required.

Figure 7 - Graph on Reasons For Not Personally Taking Action on Climate Change

Uncertainty around reaching climate change reduction targets and economic turmoil may play a part in the majority of climate change perception slippage among Canadians. Continued support around environmental conscientiousness and guidelines around personal practices for climate change reduction could better inform the public on how to continue responsible and sustainable climate action at the household level. We hope these findings shed light on the continued resilience of climate action during economic hardship and that Canada continues to persevere towards a net-zero economy.

The three surveys were conducted from February 2 to 18, 2022,  February 22 to March 7, 2023, and September 21 to 26, 2023, each time with 2,000 Canadian millennials (aged 18 to 43). Random samples of panellists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.19%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s millennial population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.