AuthorCampbell, Jesse W.
  1. Introduction

    Due to the magnitude of the problem, policy that is sufficiently ambitious to slow the rate of climate change and reduce its harmful effects entails sacrifices for all citizens. Citizens that are more concerned about climate change are more willing to bear these costs (Fairbrother, Seva and Kulin, 2019). However, concern about climate change does not translate unconditionally into support for policy action (Fairbrother, 2016). If citizens are skeptical that their sacrifices will produce climate-relevant outputs, their support for climate change policy may be tempered (Davidovic, Harring and Jagers, 2020; Tam and Chan, 2017), and even those with the strongest environmental values may reject policy initiatives they would otherwise favor. Policy performance risk, or the probability that a given policy initiative will underperform or fail, is therefore a potentially important predictor of support for climate change policy and may help explain why environmental concern does not universally entail higher levels of policy support. Understanding the factors that underlie climate change policy support is a pressing goal, as, particularly in democratic countries, political actors will be reluctant to champion unpopular policies, resulting in an insufficient policy response and potentially a climate disaster (Davidovic and Harring, 2020; Hao, Liu and Michaels, 2020).

    Levying a tax on fossil fuel consumption has been identified as an effective and efficient way to address the climate change challenge (Aldy and Stavins, 2012; Fairbrother, 2016). However, the adoption of a fossil fuel taxation regime that is sufficiently ambitious and robust to address the issue faces resistance from many citizens (Davidovic and Harring, 2020). In this study, I survey the policy failure literature and propose a model of support for fossil fuel taxation based jointly on climate change concerns and contextual factors that determine levels of governance and economic policy performance risk. Factors at both the formulation and implementation stages of the policy cycle can determine policy performance (Bovens and 't Hart, 2016; Howlett, 2012; Peters, 2015), and I develop a governance policy risk index built from national-level estimates of regulatory red tape, patronage recruitment, and (a lack of) government transparency. These factors capture public administration-specific phenomena, which have not received extensive treatment in the environmental psychology literature. Second, fossil fuel dependency will drive up the cost of a fossil fuel taxation regime, increase its complexity, and multiply the chances of adverse and unexpected policy outcomes (Hao, Liu and Michaels, 2020; Harring, Jagers and Matti, 2019; Pohjolainen et al., 2021). Unlike governance risk, these factors are specific to the implementation and output of a fossil fuel tax and may, in turn, shape citizen support for the program. I measure economic policy performance risk by combining production and consumption levels of fossil fuels at the national level. Using a multi-level regression approach (Hox, Moerbeek and van de Schoot, 2017), I link these country-level factors to citizen support for fossil fuel taxation, with higher levels of risk associated with lower levels of support. Second, I show how both 'flavors' of policy performance risk attenuate the link between climate change concern and support for fossil fuel taxation, demonstrating that in high-risk contexts, the policy preferences of those strongly concerned with climate change converge with those who are less burdened by concern.

    In the next section, I discuss climate change concern and its relationship with support for climate policy, and then move on to factors that are likely to undermine policy performance, linking these to policy support. After describing the theoretical model and stating my hypotheses, I conduct empirical tests. Using a large sample of residents across 23 (mostly) European countries, I provide evidence that the link between climate concern and support for fossil fuel taxation weakens as policy performance risk increases. In the final section, I discuss the limitations of this study and the questions it leaves for future research. This study adds value by identifying contextual factors relevant to the performance of climate policy and linking them with citizen support for a flagship climate change mitigation policy.

  2. Literature overview

    2.1. Climate change concern and support for fossil fuel taxation

    The issue of environmental concern has attracted interest from different academic perspectives including sociology, psychology, and political science (Cruz, 2017). Environmental concern captures the extent to which individuals are worried about the personal, societal, and environmental impact of environmental problems (Schultz, 2001), and the construct has both a cognitive and an affective component (Sundblad, Biel and Garling, 2007). Research has focused on both contextual and individual drivers of environmental concern, including levels of environmental degradation and C[O.sub.2] emissions (Echavarren, 2017; Hao, 2016; Luis, Vauclair and Lima, 2018; Tranter and Booth, 2015), economic development (Mayerl and Best, 2018; Nawrotzki, 2012), religiosity (Felix et al., 2018), postmaterialism and human values (Mayerl and Best, 2018; Poortinga et al., 2019), and socio-economic status, political orientation, and other demographic factors (Chan, Pong and Tam, 2019; Pampel, 2014; Van Heuvelen and Summers, 2019). In this study, I focus exclusively on climate change concern, which has received attention in some recent studies (Davidovic and Harring, 2020; Fairbrother, Seva and Kulin, 2019).

    While some work on environmental concern equates it with a willingness to behave in a pro-environmental fashion (Dunlap and Jones, 2002), concern and support are distinct concepts and some factors (such as perceived policy fairness or effectiveness) that predict various forms of environmental policy support (Dreyer and Walker, 2013; Schade and Schlag, 2003) are less likely predictors of concern. Concern and policy support (or other relevant behaviors), therefore, are related, but they are not conceptually equivalent, and nor is one a linear function of the other. Much like political support (Easton, 1975), support for increased fossil fuel taxation is a policy-specific attitude that runs from unfavorable to favorable. Although concern with climate change is now widespread globally, concern may not automatically translate into support for ambitious environmental policy (Bamberg and Moser, 2007; Hornsey et al., 2016). This 'concern-behavior gap' (Kollmuss and Agyeman, 2002; Tam and Chan, 2017) can be a function of individual-level differences such as trust (Fairbrother, Seva and Kulin, 2019; Tam and Chan, 2018) or contextual factors such as the general quality of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government (Davidovic, Harring and Jagers, 2020) or the institutionalization of strategies to address collective action problems (Doyle, 2018). I argue that policy performance risk widens the concern-behavior gap.

    2.2. Policy performance risk and fossil fuel taxation

    Policy performance risk captures the probability that a given policy will fail to produce the outcomes that are the policy's specified objectives. Policies seldom fail or succeed entirely (Baldwin, 2000; McConnell, 2010), and Peters (2015, p. 261) writes that the 'causes identified for failure in the policy literature are legion'. In the public sector, predicting future performance, and even linking past behavior to specific outputs is challenging (Campbell, 2021), and conceptualizing the factors leading to policy performance should not be reduced to a single causal perspective or be limited to an isolated phase of the policy cycle (Bovens and 't Hart, 2016; Howlett, 2012). For any complex policy, numerous elements at the design, initial implementation, and ongoing maintenance phases of the policy cycle can all play a role in shaping performance or failure (Peters, 2015). Moreover, performance in the public sector is complex and knowledge of value trade-offs (for instance, equity vs. efficiency) can shape perceptions about the desirability and legitimacy of policy initiatives (Campbell, 2020a), making consensus about relevant performance criteria elusive. Climate policy specifically is multi-dimensional and complex, and both (partial) policy success and failure may occur in a single context (Newman and Head, 2015). Governments have different instruments available to them to reduce undesirable energy usage including taxes, subsidies, bans, and usage regulations, and Davidovic and Harring (2020) note that these choices vary in both their design and coerciveness. However, Fairbrother (2016) argues that environmental taxes are looked on favorably among these choices as they address the market failures driving environmental damage efficiently by 'attaching a price to activities proportionate to the harms they cause' (p. 361).

    Although theoretically compelling, a range of factors rooted in the context of implementation can threaten the performance of a fossil fuel usage taxation regime. Such threats have distributive consequences, as underperformance will not affect all stakeholders equally; some will bear disproportionate costs, while others will benefit at their expense (Davidovic, Harring and Jagers, 2020; Fairbrother et al., 2021; Rafaty, 2018). Given that the value of the sacrifices made by stakeholders is dependent on like sacrifices being made by others, failure to distribute these equitably renders any sacrifice less meaningful. Policy performance risk, therefore, translates into individual risk. Svallfors (2013) argues that a perception among citizens that the state can deliver on its promises increases tolerance of taxation for ambitious social spending programs, and provides evidence for this proposition using data...

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