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Cost Perception in Global Climate Change Governance

Jakob Skovgaard
Lunds Universitet
Jakob Skovgaard
Lunds Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

A common theme in the global climate negotiations and in the academic literature has been the avoidance of burdens in the shape of emissions reductions. Yet, there has been a great degree of variance in states’ cost avoidance: from the EU’s and Norway’s willingness to take on burdens independently of others to the more reluctant positions of among others the US and Canada. This variance may be due to a trend most notable outside the UN negotiations, namely the focus on green growth in several countries (Korea, China, several EU states). The concept of green growth frames mitigation as a potential income rather than a potential cost: the countries that first adopt ambitious mitigation policies gain a first mover-advantage. Hence, green growth constitutes a challenge to game-theoretical explanations of climate change cooperation (particularly Prisoners’ Dilemma), as such explanantions only make sense if the states view climate change mitigation as a private cost (negative good) and the resulting avoided climate change as a public benefit (or positive good), but not if the states perceive mitigation as a benefit (private positive good). In other words, how and whether mitigation is perceived in terms of cost or growth may play a large role for a state’s mitigation policy. The paper discusses the differences between framing mitigation in terms of private costs or in terms of green growth, and the implications for global climate governance of these two frames. The implications of the notion of green growth are significant: if states perceive mitigation as being in their interest, an international agreement is less necessary. Yet, the notion of green growth is contested, especially by economists.