Dissent Proof Green Policies
OPINION |

Dissent Proof Green Policies

THE TRANSITION TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES CAREFUL MANAGEMENT OF THE DISTRIBUTIONAL EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES, AS DEMONSTRATED BY THE POLITICAL DISCONTENT GENERATED BY THE AREA B LOWEMISSION ZONE OF THE CITY OF MILAN. THIS IS BECAUSE ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS TEND TO BE REGRESSIVE WITH RESPECT TO INCOME

by Livio Di Lonardo, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Translated by Alex Foti


The existential threat of climate change is increasingly tangible. Faced with the dramatic impacts of global warming manifesting themselves with ever greater frequency and impact, we need to counter this threat, and this represents a formidable challenge on two main fronts: technological and political. While much has been written about the difficulty of transitioning towards a more sustainable economic model, drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, the potential political backlash is perhaps more problematic for achieving these goals.
 
One of the main problems associated with many environmental policies is that they tend to generate significant costs for citizens here and now, while benefits tend to manifest themselves only at a later time. Another critical, and possibly even more problematic, aspect of these policies is they are often regressive in nature. In fact, the costs tend to be distributed unequally, weighing more heavily on the weaker sections of the population. The misalignment between the distribution of costs and benefits can generate discontent, making it difficult to create political support around such measures.
 
In Italy, Milan, one of the cities having the worst air quality in the EU, has experienced such difficulties after the introduction of Area B, a low-emission traffic zone covering 72% of the City of Milan, and 97% of the Milanese population. Announced by Mayor Sala in July 2018, and implemented starting from February 2019, Area B has banned the circulation of diesel cars and particularly polluting gasoline-fueled cars, especially affecting owners of older vehicles. A measure which, by effectively forcing owners of a polluting car to buy a new one or change mode of transportation, has engendered strong political opposition, especially from the League, whose representatives have often lambasted the negative impact it has on less affluent groups.
 
In a study recently published in the American Political Science Review, with my colleagues Italo Colantone, Yotam Margalit and Marco Percoco, I analyzed the impact of the introduction of Area B on the voting choices of Milanese citizens. During the research, we acquired information through a survey on a sample of approximately 1,000 residents of Area B in Milan. Then we compared the voting choices and political opinions of two distinct groups: the first group made of individuals who owned vehicles subject to the driving ban, while the second group consists of people with cars not affected by the restriction.
 
The results indicate that citizens directly affected by the traffic restriction policy were more likely than to to vote for the League in the following European elections. The change in voting behavior did not result from outright hostility to environmentalism, but rather from disappointment stemming from the unequal distribution of costs of Area B. Furthermore, those who had received some form of compensation from the municipality did not demonstrate the same level of political dissent.
 
These results highlight the crucial importance of considering the distributional consequences of environmental policies. Distributing costs equitably and providing easy access to compensation measures can help reduce opposition to the introduction of new green measures, and improve their long-term sustainability. The careful management of green policies is essential to build lasting public consensus and guide the transition towards a more sustainable future.

Latest Articles Opinion

Go to archive
  • The Flight of the Honest

    Migrants tend to be more honest than those who stay in their places of origin. As a result, those countries are deprived of social capital, with negative effects on productivity, growth and the quality of institutions

  • The Toxicity Threshold

    On the one hand, platforms and their algorithms appear to accommodate the presence of hateful content in users' feeds; on the other hand, online platforms have moderated toxic content from the beginning, even before steep fines were introduced. Perhaps a profitable strategy for them lies in the middle

  • How the National Living Wage Helps the UK's Poorest Households

    The UK's national living wage has just been raised by 10% and research shows it can be a successful policy tool to benefit poorer households

Browse the magazine in digital format.

View previous issues of Via Sarfatti 25

BROWSE THE MAGAZINE

Events

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30