Toward behavioural climate policy: Framing of carbon pricing policy has deep effects on Canadian attitudes and behaviours
This study looked at the effects of framing and payment structure on the public reception of a
carbon pricing policy. The study closely mirrored the design of the Federal backstop of the Pan-
Canadian Framework, under which consumers receive a direct payment to offset the carbon taxes collected in their province. There were four key findings. First, framing the payment as an “incentive” increased the likelihood of consumers spending their return on green renovations as opposed to everyday purchases. Alternatively, calling the payment a “rebate” pushed people towards spending the money on everyday expenses.Second, if the policy was designed so that payments were disbursed monthly in smaller amounts, they were more likely to be spent on everyday purchases. Conversely, annual lump sum payments were more likely to be allocated towards savings. Third, there was an interaction effect between framing the payment as a “dividend” and the lump sum annual payment structure; in this case, consumers were much more likely to put the money towards savings. Finally, in terms of public perception of the policy, framing it as an “incentive” led to the most positive response, notably in terms of how well the policy reflects on Canada’s image and its alignment with Canadian values. These findings offer insight into how the use of different language to describe a carbon pricing policy, and the use of different payment schedules, can affect what consumers would spend their rebates on and their perception of the policy. How to frame public policy issues advantageously is an important part of political communication. These preliminary findings offer insight into how a carbon pricing policy can be framed and structured so as to promote the changes in consumer behaviour that the policy seeks to bring about.