Climate: fair conference - less own contribution?

Study shows connections between climate policy and private climate protection

The Peruvian Foreign Minister Gonzalo Gutiérrez Reinel at the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima. © Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores del Perú / (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Read out

Surprising effect: Anyone who considers climate conferences to be fair is less prepared to make their own contributions to climate protection. A study by German economists comes to this seemingly contradictory result. But it also shows that many people are quite willing to change their habits for the sake of the climate - but politicians should also be prepared for surprises if they promote more climate protection.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place every year - since the beginning of December, this year's summit has been held in the Peruvian Lima. Once again, politicians from all over the world are discussing necessary climate protection goals and how to achieve them. But do the major climate conferences also influence how much private individuals are prepared to contribute to climate protection?

If climate protection is important, it also does something for it

The team led by economist Andreas Ziegler from the University of Kassel interviewed more than 2, 000 representatively selected Americans and Germans. In the online survey, the researchers initially focused on three questions: Is international climate protection policy generally justified and necessary? At international climate conferences, do all countries have equal opportunities to contribute their interests?

Finally, after asking for confidence in such conferences, the researchers asked whether respondents believe that the measures adopted there are actually being effectively implemented. In addition, the participants gave information about their own consumption behavior. The researchers paid special attention to climate protection measures such as saving energy at home, buying a fuel-efficient car or eating less meat and dairy products.

Surprising counter effect

The first result of the survey confirms the expectations: "Those who consider international climate policy to be fundamentally important want to personally do more for climate protection, " summarizes Ziegler. display

But then there is the surprise: those who assume that it is fair in international climate negotiations are less likely to do their own bit for climate protection. This relationship is particularly evident in the USA. In Germany, it only affects energy saving measures at home. It is also interesting that confidence in the decisions of a climate summit had no measurable impact. Whether a climate conference provides usable results is therefore apparently insignificant for private climate protection behavior.

Connections puzzling

Why these effects occur is so far unclear. The researchers also still have difficulty assigning cause and effect here. "We only find clear correlations here, " says Ziegler. "Causal effects should be investigated in further studies."


The researchers speculate, however, that a generally greater acceptance of international climate policy also increases the personal willingness to contribute to one's own contributions also promoting climate policy would therefore have to be one double benefit. On the other hand, if the negotiations are going well, those who are uninterested may feel reassured - according to the motto: "Everything is just, politics will be right."

However, this means that policymakers should be able to counteract this situation: "At the same time, policymakers should consider how they can compensate for the fact that voluntary climate change activities might recede if Climate negotiations are more equitable which is in principle desirable, "says Ziegler.

Low willingness to resign

In general, the willingness in Germany to be personally involved in climate protection is higher. However, Germans and Americans share the same priorities: In both countries, participants are most likely to save energy at home and to purchase economical household appliances. The purchase of a fuel-efficient car and the switch to renewable energies are conceivable for many of the respondents, but meet with much less approval. At best, half of the participants are eligible for less animal food.

While climate protection is also considered to be a great responsibility towards future generations, the number of their children did not, of course, influence respondents in their willingness to protect the climate and their age did not have any impact. However, women seem to be more open to personal climate protection measures than men and more educated participants are more open-minded than those with a low level of education.

(University of Kassel, 10.12.2014 - AKR)