Beliefs in Climate Action under Weak Climate Institutions: The Role of Sectoral Divides, Home Bias and International Embeddedness


With the negotiation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, international climate governance has moved away from a top-down to a bottom-up approach. In this weakly institutionalized policy setup, national governments set their climate action targets voluntarily, and the hope is that these targets become more stringent over time. Implementing costly climate action, however, requires support from domestic populations, which are sensitive to the distributional effects from climate policy. In this paper we argue that individuals react to what they learn about the industrial impacts of climate action, both at home and abroad. Specifically, we contend that people's beliefs over how countries are affected by stringent climate policy are sensitive to information about which economic sectors win and lose from such policy scenario. However, we also conjecture that this sensitivity may be different if the country in question is the home country or a foreign one, and speculate that more general feelings about international embeddedness can explain different effects that winning and losing sectoral information may have in the focal country. Findings from an original survey experiment with a nationally representative sample in the UK shows home bias in how respondents assess distributional effects from climate action: information about winning and losing sectors shapes home country beliefs, while information from abroad is discounted. We also show that people's stance on the international order – measured as Brexit preferences – matters for their belief about the distributive politics of climate change.

Working paper. [PDF]