The Sectoral Politics of Climate Policy: Domestic Conflict and UK Public Support for Ambitious Climate Action


In one of her last acts as Prime Minister in June 2019, Theresa May committed the UK to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This target is ambitious, however it is unclear how to achieve it. The Committee on Climate Change, for instance, has warned that much stronger efforts are needed, especially, in the electricity, transport, and housing sectors. However, enacting stronger climate action requires public support because governments otherwise risk losing office.

Existing research has extensively studied public support for climate policy, yet these studies typically ignore domestic conflict from climate action between major economic sectors. This is problematic because implementing ambitious climate policy does obviously not affect all sectors equally, but instead creates winners and losers, both across and within sectors. Given the importance of which sectors win or lose for the national economy and the pressure on high-polluting sectors to reduce emissions, it is surprising we know little about how information on winning and losing sectors, i.e., information about sectoral conflict from climate action shapes individual climate preferences.

This project addresses this gap and makes an important first step towards developing a more nuanced understanding of how domestic conflict between major economic sectors shapes popular beliefs about climate action and support for climate policy more broadly. Aside from the academic contribution, the project opens up the unique opportunity for knowledge exchange with the UK and Scottish governments, which currently face tough decisions on how to underpin their net-zero carbon emissions commitments and their climate leadership agendas more generally.

Funder: Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
Funding period: 1 June 2021-30 June 2022
Funder reference: RIG009238