Beliefs about Climate Action Consequences under Weak Global Institutions: Sectors, 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 setup, national governments set their climate targets voluntarily. Since climate policy has distributional effects, ratcheting up climate ambition over time will only become politically feasible if the general public believes that their country can win from ambitious climate action. In this paper, we develop a theory of belief formation which anchors distributional effects from climate action at the sector level. Specifically, we study how knowing about these impacts shapes public beliefs about collective economic consequences from climate policy not only in a home country but also abroad. Findings from a nationally representative survey experiment in the United Kingdom demonstrate that respondents are biased towards their home country in assessing information about winning and losing sectors: while beliefs brighten for good news and worsen for bad news when home country information is provided, distributional effects from abroad are discounted for belief formation. We also show that feelings of international embeddedness, akin to globalization attitudes, make respondents consistently hold more positivebeliefs that the UK can benefit from ambitious climate action. Ruling out several alternative explanations, these results offer a first step towards a better understanding of how distributional effects in one issue area, such as globalization, can spill over to other issue areas, such as climate change.

Working paper. [PDF]