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WIREs Clim Change
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How strong is public support for unilateral climate policy and what drives it?

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Conventional wisdom holds that climate change poses a global public goods problem, thus requiring a global solution that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide through some form of centralized target setting and burden‐sharing arrangement among countries. Yet, the 2015 Paris Agreement has essentially given up on this approach, on which the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was based, and now relies on policies that are adopted unilaterally and voluntarily by individual countries. Since ambitious climate policies are very unlikely to be enacted and effectively implemented without strong public support, research is beginning to explore how strong public support is for unilateral climate policy and what its determinants are. Recent research has developed useful survey instruments to gauge public support for unilateral climate policy. Results from surveys and survey‐embedded experiments show that when respondents are confronted with cost implications and free‐riding problems associated with unilateral climate policy, public support tends to drop to some extent, but still remains quite high. Current research thus shows that people are—the hitherto strong global public goods framing of climate policy notwithstanding—surprisingly nonreciprocal in their climate policy preferences. Preferences concerning climate policy tend to be driven primarily by a range of personal predispositions and cost considerations, which existing research has already explored quite extensively, rather than by considerations of what other countries do. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e484. doi: 10.1002/wcc.484

Preference for Climate Policy Without Global Agreement. Source: Based on data from World Bank. The item wording is: “Imagine that at the meeting, the other countries do NOT come to a global agreement on taking steps against climate change. If this happens, do you think our country would have a responsibility to take steps against climate change, or would it not have a responsibility? …Would have a responsibility, Would not have a responsibility.”
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Relationship between percentage of individuals within a country who believe their country has a responsibility to take steps against climate change even without a global agreement (World Bank 2010) and their country's GDP and GDP per capita in the year of that survey (World Bank 2016). GDP and GDP per capita is base 10 logarithmized to aid comparison.
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Support for unilateral climate policy in United States and India.
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Support for unilateral climate policy in China.
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Conditional and Unconditional Climate Policy Preferences. Source: Based on data from http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/public‐support‐for‐climate‐energy‐policies‐in‐april‐2013/. The wording of the survey item is: ‘People disagree whether the United States should reduce greenhouse gas emissions on its own, or make reductions only if other countries do too. Which of the following statements comes closes to your own point of view? The United States should reduce greenhouse gas emissions…Regardless of what other countries do, Only if other industrialized countries reduce their emissions, Only if other industrialized and developing countries reduce their emissions, The U.S. should not reduce its emissions.’
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Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance
Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Behavior Change and Responses

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