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Institutional Design and Elite Support for Climate Policies: Evidence from Latin American Countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2020

Danilo Freire*
The Political Theory Project, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, e-mail:
Umberto Mignozzetti
School of International Relations, Fundação Getulio Vargas, São Paulo, SP, Brazil Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, New York, NY, USA, Twitter: @umbertomig; e-mail:
David Skarbek
The Department of Political Science and the Political Theory Project, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, Twitter: @davidskarbek; e-mail:
*Corresponding author. Email:


Which institutional features do Latin American elites favor for local climate change policies? Climate change mitigation requires active local-level implementation, but it remains unclear which institutional arrangements maximize support for environmental rules. In this paper, we run a conjoint experiment with elite members of 10 Latin American countries and ask respondents to evaluate institutional designs drawn from a pool of 5,500 possible local climate governance arrangements. We find that Latin American elites prefer international organizations to formulate climate policies, support imposing increasing fines on violators, and favor renewing agreements every 5 years. We also find that elites support both international institutions and local courts to mediate conflicts, but they distrust non-governmental organizations and reject informal norms as a means of conflict resolution. Our results identify possible challenges in crafting local climate mitigation policies and offer new insights about how to integrate local and international levels in environmental agreements.

Research Article
© The Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2020

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We thank Nigel Ashford, Fábio Barros, Frans Berkhout, Daniel D’Amico, Guilherme Fasolin, Manoel Galdino, Malte Hendricks, Stephen Herzog, Christian Hübner, Karina Marzano, Davi Moreira, Emily Skarbek, Paula Vedovelli, and the participants at the FGV IR Seminar for their valuable comments. Special thanks to Natalia Liberato, Lucas Mingardi, Ingrid Oliveira, Catarina Roman, Leticia Santana, and Larissa Santos for their excellent research assistance. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. This research received IRB approval from Brown University (Protocol 2195/2018) and Fundação Getulio Vargas (Protocol 83/2018). We acknowledge financial support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Latin American Regional Programme for Energy Security and Climate (EKLA-KAS) and declare there are no conflicts of interest. The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this article are available at the Journal of Experimental Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: doi:10.7910/DVN/VTA5OA.


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