Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #873

Supporting Carbon Taxes: The Role of Fairness

by Stephan Sommer, Linus Mattauch and Michael Pahle

RWI, 12/2020, 46 S./p., 10 Euro, ISBN 978-3-96973-010-2 DOI: 10.4419/96973010



We conduct a discrete choice experiment with a sample of 6,000 German household heads to examine
how fairness preferences influence the support for carbon taxes and revenue-recycling options. While it is well-known that carbon taxes are effective in reducing emissions and can be made progressive, they remain fairly unpopular with German citizens. Consequently, best practice to build public support for them remains a relevant question for which there is no consensus. We obtain two major results: First, while green spending is more popular in general, it is significantly more popular among those who are pro-environment and trust the government. Second, when restricted to options for direct revenue redistribution, Germans prefer lump-sum payments over directing payments to the poorest or the most affected. Importantly, choices over these options depend both on genuinely different conceptions of fairness and respondents’ economic circumstances. Our findings have implications for building support for effective climate change mitigation policies with those who are not yet convinced.

JEL-Classification: A13, H23, Q54

Keywords: Carbon pricing; climate change mitigation; fairness; redistribution; environmental tax reform