Carbon pricing and public opinion

Stronger action on global environmental problems is very popular, but often specific solutions are not. A key question for making progress on environmental protection is thus how to increase support for policy instruments understood by economists to be effective, such as pricing pollution. Should we advocate for designing policy responses in a way that ‘citizens really like’ them, even potentially exploiting biases in and misperceptions of the public’s understanding of actual economic properties of these policies? In the presentation, which is on work in progress, I explore a number of ideas. (1) Fairness concerns in general are a major reservation of the public against carbon pricing, however, we do not know which different, well-known fairness conceptions prevalent in society matter. (2) Understanding how the contingent characteristics of policies heavily influence public support beyond their essential economic properties might change the normative model of how to give policy advice. (3) There is evidence that the classical equivalence of price and quantity instruments in environmental economics is not how the public perceives these instruments, with implications for instrument choice beyond climate change mitigation.