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Support for Climate Action Hinges on Public Understanding of Policy - International Monetary Fund

Support for Climate Action Hinges on Public Understanding of Policy – International Monetary Fund

People across the world worry about climate change, but that concern
alone doesn’t translate into support for climate mitigation policies.

That’s our finding based on a recent survey designed to better illustrate
how people perceive the risks from climate change and their support for
government climate actions.

Responses also show that those who were more concerned about climate change
tend to be female, more educated, followers of news, and more accepting of
government’s role in regulating the economy. Data shows that public
transport users and those that rely less on cars are also more concerned
about climate change.

Our survey of almost 30,000 people in 28 countries was conducted in July
and August by market researcher YouGov. The survey covered advanced
and emerging economies and included 20 of the top 25 emitters as well as
nine of the 25 countries most exposed to climate change.

This novel survey of climate mitigation beliefs offers policymakers a
better understanding of how to address the urgent challenge of climate
change. While governments have ambitious goals, the world is

not yet on track

to contain global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. According to
scientists, failing to get emissions on the correct course by 2030 may lock
global warming above 2 degrees and risk a catastrophic tipping
point at which climate change becomes self-perpetuating.

Our survey shows that providing even small amounts of information on
policy efficacy and benefits—including co-benefits, such as improved air
quality and better health—can engender greater support. This support,
however, may be short-lived if policy tradeoffs are not made explicit,
highlighting the importance of ensuring the public understands the relative
costs and benefits of available policy options.

Some of the most economically efficient policies, such as carbon pricing
based on the content of fuels or their emissions, often face political
resistance. Importantly, the survey highlights that climate concern alone
doesn’t translate into broad support for carbon pricing policies such as
carbon taxes or emissions trading systems.

Carbon pricing is more acceptable when presented along with information
about the impact of climate change, how pricing works, and options for
using the revenue it generates. Notably, people are more supportive of the
policy if the revenues it generates are used to shield economically
vulnerable groups from the adverse impact of climate policies.

Subsidizing green investments finds large support across all countries,
while opponents often cite concerns about corruption and policy
ineffectiveness even as proponents can sometimes fail to recognize the
costs associated with these policies for the public budget. This suggests
that public spending and investment efficiency matters in enhancing support
for greening the economy.

Support for multilateral action

The survey points to broader support for collective action and larger
common ground for crafting international agreements than expected. A
majority of respondents across all countries think that climate change
policy will only be effective if most countries adopt measures to reduce
carbon emissions.

Moreover, most respondents in both advanced and emerging market economies
think that all countries, not only rich ones, should pay to address climate
change. In addition, a large share of respondents in most countries say
burden sharing should be based on current rather than historical emissions.
The public is likely to back costly climate policies if other countries do
so, both because this increases the odds of reaching global net-zero
emissions goals and because those efforts resonate as fair.

Knowledge of climate mitigation policies remains patchy, and many people
still have no opinion when it comes to supporting or opposing climate
policy actions in their country. Here’s how governments can better support
the urgent need for green transitions:

  • Educate the public about the causes and consequences of climate change and the costs of inaction
  • Talk about the costs of inaction, such as pollution, and the benefits of addressing these, like improvements for air quality, health, and protection of low-income households
  • Emphasize that the policies work, so the trade-offs are worth it
  • Underscore the shared spirit of solidarity and need for strong climate policies in a broad range of economies


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