What Drives Politicians to Act on Climate? A Field Experiment with Local Officials in Six Countries

Aug 1, 2023

Local governments play an important role addressing the climate crisis. However, despite public support for climate action, local policy response has been limited. We argue that (1) biased beliefs about voter preferences, (2) the time horizon for credit claiming, and (3) source credibility are barriers for legislators to learn and adopt new environmental policies. We test our arguments in a field experiment embedded in a real policy-learning context: a webinar on climate solutions for local politicians. Representatives from six Western countries received different versions of the webinar invitation. Constituency opinion on climate made local officeholders more likely to follow public preferences. Invitations sent by a climate scientist and emphasizing short-term policy effects also increased interest in the webinar but did not convert into policy commitments. Only US officials responded negatively to climate scientists. The results reveal concrete steps to induce climate action and contribute to scholarship on policy learning.

Publication details
Theme(s)
The urgency of zero
Type(s)
Report
Author(s)
Axelsson, Kaya
Year(s)
2022
Harvard

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