Our project relate to the aim of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C (Höhne et al., 2017; Kinley, 2017) since we investigate the critical aspects of citizens’ support and willingness to pay for transforming countries to low- or even zero carbon societies. Issues of perceived fairness are at the heart of the problem of writing climate treaties. The earlier “Kyoto” style approach to deciding abatement commitments failed notably at the COP in Copenhagen and one of the main reasons was probably differences in opinion about how to allocate burdens fairly. While the Paris agreement is described as a historical event and a turning point in the United Nations' climate negotiations, its success hinges upon a much more bottom-up or voluntarist approach in which countries ambitions and efforts are outlined in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
Public support for policies is one aspect of political systems that is argued to be of importance for successful implementation of climate policies, since competing over votes is assumed to create incentives among political leaders to deliver public goods that the citizens’ demand and are willing to pay for (Deacon, 2003;Smith et al, 2003). A lower support for climate policies would in this context translate to (democratic) governments being less
likely to implement such policies. However, also other factors can of course be of importance for successful implementation of climate policies such as government efficiency, impartiality and corruption (see e.g. Rothstein and Teorell, 2008 for a discussion of “good governance”).
This means that countries with lower levels of democracy could still implement effective policies. However, the basis for this project is that citizens’ preferences and perspectives are important for our understanding of the prospects for countries to implement climate policies
irrespective of level of democracy.
We will in particular focus on three aspects
- Determinants of support
- The value of being a frontrunner
- The role of information for shaping preferences for climate policy.
Determinants of support
There are plenty of studies investigating the support for climate policies, with both studies on the willingness to pay for policies (Johnson and Nemet 2010) and studies on the willingness to take individual action through for example reduced car use or increased use of renewable energy (Nomura and Akai 2004; Hansla et al. 2008; Akter and Bennet 2008). A smaller set of studies compare the support and determinants of the support among a set of countries. Brouwer et al. (2008) investigated whether air travel passengers support measures to compensate for the damage caused by their flights. They found that Europeans are the most aware and most willing to pay for carbon offsets whereas North Americans and Asians are less informed and less willing to pay. Carlsson et al. (2012) investigated preferences in three countries: China, Sweden and the U.S. They found that a large majority of the respondents in all three countries believe that the mean global temperature has increased over the last 100 years and that humans are responsible for the increase. Citizens in Sweden had the highest WTP for reductions of CO2, while China had the lowest. When WTP is measured as a share of household income, the willingness to pay is the same for Americans and Chinese, while again higher for the Swedes.
Understanding differences in preferences both within and between countries with both individual and country specific effects is crucial to understand why some individuals’ supports while others’ do not support climate policies. The knowledge is also crucial for governments to understand whether their climate politics correspond to a broad consensus among citizens.