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Citizens' perceptions of justice in international climate policy: an empirical analysis

Schleich, Joachim, Dütschke, Elisabeth, Schwirplies, Claudia, Ziegler, Andreas
Climate Policy 2016 v.16 no.1 pp. 50-67
climate, climate change, environmental policy, social justice, surveys, China, Germany, United States
Relying on a recent survey of more than 3400 participants from China, Germany, and the US, this article empirically analyses citizens' perceptions of key guiding principles for sharing mitigation costs across countries, justification of climate policy and trust in climate policy. Our findings suggest that the ranking of the main principles for burden-sharing is identical in China, Germany, and the US: accountability followed by capability, egalitarianism, and sovereignty. Thus, on a general level, citizens across these countries seem to have a common (normative) understanding of fairness. We therefore find no evidence that citizens' (stated) fairness preferences are detrimental to future burden-sharing agreements. In all three countries a majority of citizens considers international climate policy to be justified, but citizens' perceptions differ across specific items and countries. Finally, a substantial portion of citizens in all countries exhibit a lack of trust in international climate agreements. Policy relevance Disagreement over the distribution of mitigation costs across countries is blocking current negotiations about a new international climate change agreement to be adopted in 2015. At the heart of this disagreement are different perceptions of distributive justice among those involved in climate policy making. Our findings show that there is no difference in the ranking of fairness principles across citizens in China, Germany, and the US, suggesting that the common ground for crafting a future agreement is larger than expected. In particular, the accountability principle should weigh heavily when deciding on the burden-sharing. In addition, our findings suggest that in order to gain support among citizens, international climate policy may need to take measures to improve trust.