This article presents a theory of the relationship between public perceptions of political corruption and the strength of national climate change mitigation policies, which is then formally tested in a time-series-cross-section analysis of twenty industrialized democracies from 1990 to 2012. The analysis reveals that greater perceptions of corruption are highly and robustly associated with weaker climate policies—especially nonmarket policies—when controlling for relevant political and economic variables. A government perceived by citizens to be “mildly corrupt” but that transitions to “very clean” would be associated with strengthening nonmarket climate policies from levels in Greece to levels in Sweden or from levels in Poland to those in Denmark. Lax market-based climate policies are also significantly linked to greater perceived corruption, but notably, they are robustly associated with the size of domestic energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries, which have received substantial environmental tax exemptions and free allocations even in the greenest, high-trust, low-corruption democracies.


Rafaty, R. (2018). 'Perceptions of Corruption, Political Distrust, and the Weakening of Climate Policy'. Global Environmental Politics, 18(3), pp.106-129.
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