Policy attribute framing: A comparison between three policy instruments for personal emissions reduction



A comparative experiment in the UK examined people's willingness to change energy consumption behavior under three different policy framings: energy tax, carbon tax, and personal carbon allowances (PCA). PCA is a downstream cap-and-trade policy proposed in the UK, in which emission rights are allocated to individuals. We hypothesized that due to economic, pro-environmental and mental accounting drivers PCA would have greater potential to deliver emissions reduction than taxation. Participants (n = 1,096) received one version of a survey with the same energy-behavior–related questions and identical incurred costs under one of the following framings: energy tax (where carbon was not mentioned), carbon tax, and PCA. Results suggest that policies that draw people's attention to carbon (PCA and carbon taxation) could have greater impact on their stated willingness to reduce energy consumption, and on the reduction amounts prompted, than would a non-overt price signal (energy tax). There is mixed evidence, however, as to whether PCA or carbon taxation would produce the largest energy demand reductions. Some indication was found for a spillover toward wider carbon conservation under the PCA framing. © 2011 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.