Designing Politically Acceptable and Effective Policies to Mitigate Climate Change

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Climate policy
Emission reductions
Economic efficiency
Political acceptance
Citizen support
Policy knowledge

Several criteria are usually considered when evaluating climate policy options. If the policy is ineffective, it will not achieve the emission reduction goal. If the policy is effective and economically efficient, it could achieve the goal at a relatively low cost. But if the policy is likely to trigger strong opposition from an influential segment of the public, its inability to achieve political acceptability may prevent its implementation, even by politicians who are keen to reduce emissions. The goal of this thesis is to identify the key attributes of acceptable climate policies to help policy-makers improve their chances of implementing and sustaining policies that actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The thesis consists of four distinct research papers. The first paper focuses primarily on the assessment of policy effectiveness and efficiency using British Columbia’s carbon tax and clean electricity standard as a case study for comparing two policies that differ significantly. Specifically, I describe and analyze these policies using multi-attribute policy evaluation criteria that include annual emission reductions and economic costs of emission reductions due to each policy. The other three papers address the issue of political acceptability by exploring in different ways its one key component, citizen support. In particular, I assess citizen support for different types of climate policies and identify the key factors predicting policy support, using a representative sample of Canadian citizens (n=1,306). Several findings emerge from my research. First, while carbon taxes are considered the most economically efficient climate policy, they are the least popular type of policy among the general public. In contrast, regulatory policies, including clean electricity standards, low carbon fuel standards, and efficiency regulations, appear to receive relatively high citizen support while causing substantial emission reductions. Second, citizen knowledge of climate policy is not associated with higher policy support, suggesting that widespread knowledge and well-informed citizen support may not be required for implementation of effective climate policies. Third, only a few factors are consistent predictors of citizen support across policy types, including being concerned about climate change, having trust in scientists, and being female. Other significant factors are unique to different policy types.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Mark Jaccard
Environment: School of Resource and Environmental Management
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.