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Job losses and political acceptability of climate policies: why the ‘job-killing’ argument is so persistent and how to overturn it

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  • Francesco Vona

    (Observatoire français des conjonctures économiques)

Abstract

Political acceptability is an essential issue in choosing appropriate climate policies. Sociologists and behavioural scientists recognize the importance of selecting environmental policies that have broad political support, while economists tend to compare different instruments first on the basis of their efficiency, and then by assessing their distributional impacts and thus their political acceptability. This paper examines case-study and empirical evidence that the job losses ascribed (correctly or incorrectly) to climate policies have substantial impacts on the willingness of affected workers to support these policies. In aggregate, the costs of these losses are significantly smaller than the benefits, both in terms of health and, probably, of labour market outcomes, but the losses are concentrated in specific areas, sectors and social groups that have been hit hard by the great recession and international competition. Localized contextual effects, such as peer group pressure, and politico-economic factors, such as weakened unions and tightened government budgets, amplify the strength and the persistence of the ‘job-killing’ argument. Compensating for the effects of climate policies on ‘left-behind’ workers appears to be the key priority to increase the political acceptability of such policies, but the design of compensatory policies poses serious challenges.

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  • Francesco Vona, 2019. "Job losses and political acceptability of climate policies: why the ‘job-killing’ argument is so persistent and how to overturn it," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/6d7es28iae9, Sciences Po.
  • Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/6d7es28iae9pjoil7092hs41h3
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    2. Jochen Markard & Daniel Rosenbloom, 2020. "Politics of low-carbon transitions: The European Emissions Trading System as a Trojan Horse for climate policy?," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20200116, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    3. Zhang, Xiaoli & Cui, Xueqin & Li, Bo & Hidalgo-Gonzalez, Patricia & Kammen, Daniel M & Zou, Ji & Wang, Ke, 2022. "Immediate actions on coal phaseout enable a just low-carbon transition in China’s power sector," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 308(C).
    4. Marin, Giovanni & Vona, Francesco, 2019. "Climate policies and skill-biased employment dynamics: Evidence from EU countries," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(C).
    5. David A. Fleming‐Muñoz & Lavinia Poruschi & Thomas Measham & Jacqui Meyers & Magnus Moglia, 2020. "Economic vulnerability and regional implications of a low carbon emissions future," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 64(3), pages 575-604, July.
    6. Ziqiao Chen & Giovanni Marin & David Popp & Francesco Vona, 2020. "Green Stimulus in a Post-pandemic Recovery: the Role of Skills for a Resilient Recovery," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 901-911, August.
    7. McAusland, Carol, 2021. "Carbon taxes and footprint leakage: Spoilsport effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 204(C).
    8. Jean-Luc Gaffard, 2021. "La transition écologique : incertitude, irréversibilité et modèle institutionnel," GREDEG Working Papers 2021-04, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France, revised Feb 2021.
    9. Andrew G. Meyer, 2022. "Do economic conditions affect climate change beliefs and support for climate action? Evidence from the US in the wake of the Great Recession," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 60(1), pages 64-86, January.
    10. Katharina Bohnenberger, 2022. "Greening work: labor market policies for the environment," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 49(2), pages 347-368, May.
    11. Kuriyama, Akihisa & Abe, Naoya, 2021. "Decarbonisation of the power sector to engender a ‘Just transition’ in Japan: Quantifying local employment impacts," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    12. Marin, Giovanni & Vona, Francesco, 2021. "The impact of energy prices on socioeconomic and environmental performance: Evidence from French manufacturing establishments, 1997–2015," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    13. Samson Afewerki & Asbjørn Karlsen, 2021. "Policy mixes for just sustainable regional development in industrially overspecialized regions: the case of two Norwegian petro-maritime regions," PEGIS geo-disc-2021_02, Institute for Economic Geography and GIScience, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.

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    Keywords

    Climate policies; Employment impacts; Distributional impacts; Collective action problems; Amplification mechanisms; Political acceptability;
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