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The economics of leadership in climate change mitigation

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  • Gregor Schwerhoff

Abstract

Which kind of reaction can a nation or group of nations expect when leading by example in climate policy? This synthesis article describes possible positive reaction mechanisms from different fields of economics, some of which have scarcely been linked to climate economics previously. One effect may be behavioural, a reaction motivated by fairness, reciprocity, or norms. Second, other nations may interpret the leader's action as a signal on his preference or the value of the objective and adjust their own policy based on the new information. Third, the leader may provide a service to other nations, which decreases their costs and risks. The followers could benefit by learning successful policies, adopting technologies, and obtaining information on the cost of environmental policy. All of these mechanisms have in common that the leader sets an example with the intention of motivating others to contribute to the public good. Policy relevance A large body of both theoretical and empirical evidence shows that leading by example in climate change mitigation by a small group of nations has important potential for motivating other nations to follow. Modern economics has identified a range of mechanisms to explain why simple free-riding is unlikely to dominate the reaction to leadership. One such mechanism is described by behavioural economics. Humans often behave as conditional cooperators, meaning that they are willing to do their bit once a leader has done his. A second mechanism is the transmission of a credible signal that the leader considers climate change mitigation to be important. Finally, the leader gains knowledge, which spills over to other countries and thus moves their cost--benefit ratio in favour of mitigation. This evidence implies that leadership provides a promising alternative to stimulate the global cooperation that will eventually be needed to stabilize the climate.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregor Schwerhoff, 2016. "The economics of leadership in climate change mitigation," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 196-214, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:16:y:2016:i:2:p:196-214
    DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2014.992297
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    Cited by:

    1. Wolfgang Buchholz & Michael Eichenseer, 2019. "Advantageous leadership in public good provision: the case of an endogenous contribution technology," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Edenhofer, Ottmar & Flachsland, Christian & Kalkuhl, Matthias & Knopf, Brigitte & Pahle, Michael, 2019. "Optionen für eine CO2-Preisreform," Working Papers 04/2019, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung.

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