Political Economy of Climate Change Conference

May 17, 2024

The Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance hosted the Political Economy of Climate Change Conference on May 10–11. Convened by Erik Voeten (Georgetown) and Noah Zucker (LSE), the conference brought together scholars from across the U.S. and Europe to discuss cutting-edge research on climate politics. Several dozen Princeton faculty members, graduate students, and visiting fellows attended and contributed to the discussions. Most attendees were political scientists but there were also economists, engineers, and scientists from the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, as well as some policy practitioners and activists.

The first panel featured three papers on international climate competition and cooperation. Jeremy Wallace (Cornell) presented research with Jonas Nahm (Johns Hopkins) on how the U.S. and EU are restructuring low-carbon supply chains to reduce dependence on China. Zuhad Hai (Princeton) discussed the political causes and effects of scientific uncertainty at the IPCC. Amanda Kennard (Stanford) analyzed how coalitions form and shape outcomes at international climate negotiations.

The second session focused on firms. Alexander Gazmararian and Helen Milner (Princeton) argued extreme weather events reshape firms’ perceptions of their climate vulnerability and, in turn, their political preferences. Christina Toenshoff (Leiden) presented a book project on corporate political behavior, discussing how firms strategically choose between unilateral and coalitional lobbying.

Conference attendees subsequently participated in a lunch roundtable discussion. Robert Keohane (Princeton) took stock of recent progress in the climate politics field and charted a path forward. Wei Peng from Princeton’s Andlinger Center reviewed new efforts to incorporate lessons from political science into the development of integrated assessment models. Jonas Meckling (Berkeley) discussed how to improve political scientists’ engagement with climate policymakers.

The third panel covered electoral climate politics. Italo Colantone (Bocconi) identified how individual occupational profiles affect pro-environment voting behavior, drawing on new empirical work with Enrico Cavallotti (Trinity College Dublin), Piero Stanig (Bocconi), and Francesco Vona (Milan). Vincent Heddesheimer (Princeton) showed how the green transition has triggered status grievances and increased voting for the far right in Germany, discussing a paper with Hanno Hilbig (UC Davis) and Erik Voeten. In the final presentation, Diane Bolet (Essex), with Sarah Gomm (ETH Zurich) and Fergus Green (UCL), evaluated how populist messaging campaigns sway mass climate attitudes.

The final session of the first day covered domestic climate politics in the Global South. Alice Xu (Penn) illustrated, with Shelley Liu (Duke), how climate change has encouraged welfare-enhancing labor formalization in urban Liberia. António Valentim (Yale) presented new work with Guilherme Fasolin (Vanderbilt) on how climate impacts have affected the profiles of political office-seekers in Brazil.

The conference concluded with two panels on the second day. The first addressed the intersection of climate and development. Richard Clark (Cornell) and Sabrina Arias (Princeton) explored how staff at the International Monetary Fund adjust loan conditionalities for climate-vulnerable borrower governments. Federica Genovese (Oxford) described a new survey, conducted with Michael Lerner (LSE) and climate policy practitioners at the World Bank and elsewhere, that measures elite preferences towards carbon pricing in developing countries. Nikhar Gaikwad (Columbia) and Noah Zucker summarized an ongoing field experiment in India that evaluates means of accelerating mass political mobilization on climate.

The final session focused on how to compensate countries and communities for the costs of climate action. Dustin Tingley, with Tayla Ingles and Rochelle Sun (Harvard), discussed the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and how to soften its effect on developing countries. Sarah Bush (Penn) then presented work from a book project with Amanda Clayton (Berkeley), analyzing how compensation schemes may overcome men’s resistance to decarbonization.

The conference was a unique opportunity for climate scholars to connect and advance the research frontier. We expect that the conversations begun at the conference will continue into the future, producing more innovative and impactful climate politics scholarship.