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Photo: Melina Granberg
Simon Matti, Associate Professor of Political Science at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Melina Granberg View original picture , opens in new tab/window

A model for successful climate policy instruments

Published: 30 November 2016

Acceptance of climate policy instruments differs between countries and is partly determined by contextual factors such as political culture, quality of government and economic dependencies. Now a model that describes these complex relationships will be created for the first time. The goal is to be able to apply climate policy instruments in a more efficient way.

– The carbon tax is an example of an instrument that is very effective for steering behaviour. In Sweden, we have had it since the 1990s, and here it is readily accepted among the general public. In Australia it was introduced it but had to be removed shortly after. They have a reliance on the coal industry, and a carbon tax would indirectly affect the business, which in turn affects the acceptance, says Simon Matti, Associate Professor of Political Science at Luleå University of Technology.

Low acceptance results in low efficiency

Simon Matti says that policy instruments need to be adapted to the context. Therefore, the researchers will conduct a number of survey experiments to find out how people react to different types of policy measures, as well as how individual-level and contextual factors interact, ­– research we almost entirely lack today. In a previous project were Norway, Australia and New Zealand compared and now Sweden, Finland, Great Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic will be added.

– We have EU's climate policy and international climate agreements to adapt to. Therefore, we must know the possibilities for a set of instruments to travel to other contexts.

– If an instrument that has low acceptance is introduced, compliance is at risk as people are more likely to try to sneak away and find detours. Thus it becomes less effective.

Model that creates understanding

The picture is complex, but scientists have already reached good knowledge of why the acceptance of policy instruments differs on the individual level and what mechanisms that plays an important role. Now they will turn focus to the importance of context and Simon Matti says that the State has an important role. In the end, a comprehensive model will be presented.

– In most cases, the State needs instruments such as taxes, fees, subsidies or legislation to govern collaboration. But the State is supposed to act in the interest of citizens and with a representative democratic perspective. Furthermore, governments are made up of politicians, and politicians seek re-election. They do not want to stir up the feelings of the electorate. Therefore, instruments where acceptance among citizens is perceived as low or non-existent risk to be weeded out.

– Previous research has shown, for example, that support for economic instruments is low in highly corrupt countries, since citizens cannot trust politicians nor that the revenue from the tax is used in a proper way. They simply do not know where the money goes. Instead, they prefer legal measures that create predictability, says Simon Matti.