Discussion Paper

Cooperation and Climate Change: Can Communication Facilitate the Provision of Public Goods in Heterogeneous Settings?

Nov 16, 2012 | Kerri Brick, Zoe Van der Hoven, Martine Visser

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .

Abstract

International and domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions require a coordinated effort from heterogeneous actors. This experiment uses a public good game with a climate change framing to consider whether cooperation is possible in just such a climate change context. Specifically, we examine whether groups of heterogeneous individuals can meet a collective emissions reduction target through individual contributions. Participants represent two different sectors of society with differing marginal costs of abatement. Thus, the equity considerations that make climate change such a contentious issue are implicit in the experiment framing. Subjects are able to communicate with one another in order to coordinate contribution strategies. The results indicate that participatory processes and stakeholder engagement play an important role in promoting cooperation—even when heterogeneity is present. However, heterogeneity makes it more difficult for groups to reach consensus on how to distribute an abatement burden. Further, the non-binding nature of the agreement results in significant levels of free-riding. In addition, heterogeneity appears to provide disadvantaged player-types with a justification for free-riding. Ultimately, the results indicate that participatory processes alone are not sufficient to induce widespread compliance with a mitigation obligation.