NostaClimate- The relevance of non-state actors for individual climate protection activities and climate policy

Start of Project 11/2018
End of Project 07/2022

National laws and regulations introduced by state actors are unlikely to be sufficient to meet the emission targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement. Voluntary climate activities by non-state and individual actors can help to close this gap. While previous studies have focused on the role of state and individual actors, NostaClimate explicitly analyzes the role of non-state actors and their interactions with state and individual actors with respect to climate pro­tec­tion activities and climate policy. We focus mainly on municipalites, churches and employers as non-state actors. NostaClimate also examines how the COVID-19 pandemic, which brings additional health risk but also great financial uncertainty to everyday life, influences individual climate protection acitivites and individual support of climate policy.

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Project results

The evaluations of the experiments and surveys show that municipalities and churches can influence individual climate protection behavior through various channels. For example, the analysis of the municipal survey shows that municipalities see themselves as role models for climate protection and they are in exchange with civil society and other municipalities. Interaction with higher levels of government is rather limited according to the data of the survey. Experimental results show that the influence of municipalities via their role model function is rather weak, whereas the behavior of other citizens has a stronger influence on individual climate protection behavior. In comparison, a field experiment with a religious institution (i.e. the Catholic Church) as a non-state actor shows that individual climate protection behavior can be strengthened by information on the institutions´ support for climate protection.

The empirical analysis of the influence of the Corona crisis on indivdiual attitudes toward climate policy indicates that the support for climate policy measures (at least in the first wave of the pandemic) did not change much. However, the analyses also indicates that economic concerns, such as individual worries about their personal economic situation, leads to significantly less support for  climate policy measures, such as an increase in the CO2 price.

Illustration of project results

The figure shows the results of one of our field experiments, in which the (inter)re­la­tion­ships between non-state actors and individual climate protection activities were examined. We made use of an experimental design to ana­lyze the extent to which one's own cli­mate protection contributions are influenced by a comparison to different reference groups. Accordingly, the contribution de­ci­sion was embedded in three different con­texts, in which three different reference groups (control group without reference, fellow citizens, city) were mentioned. The measurement of these interactions in the ex­peri­ment was based on the individual willingness to pay for climate protection in the form of a tree donation to reduce carbon emissions. The analyses show that especially the behavior of fel­low citizens plays an important role for the individual donation decision, while the ref­er­ence to the city's commitment has a much weaker impact on individual contributions (see figure).

Main Findings

  • Non-state actors are already making a sig­nifi­cant con­tribution to climate pro­tection.
  • The strengthening of individual climate pro­tec­tion activities can especially be achieved through the role model function of fellow citizens, but also activities of non-state actors such as companies and churches in­crease individual commit­ment.
  • Further research is needed to inves­tigate the role of other non-state actors and re­le­vant co-benefits of climate action.


Engler, D., Groh, E.D., Gutsche, G., Ziegler, A. (2021):
Acceptance of climate-oriented policy measures under the COVID-19 crisis: An empirical analysis for Germany. Climate Policy 21 (10): 1281-1297.

Feldhaus,  C., Gleue, M., Löschel, A. (2022):
Can a Catholic institution promote sustainable behavior? Field experimental evidence on donations for climate protection. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics 98, 101855.

Helferich, M., Schmittel, N., Dütschke, E., Hanss, D. (2020):
Warum Bürgerinnen und Bürger aktiv werden: Einblick in den Zusammenhang von kommunalem und individuellem Klimaschutzengagement. Umweltpsychologie 24 (1): 142-152.

Minnich, A. (2022):
Do fans’ emotions influence charitable donations? Evidence from monetary and returnable cup donations in German soccer stadiums. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics 96: 101807.

Bartels, L., Kesternich, M., Löschel, A. (2021):
The Demand for Voluntary Carbon Sequestration – Experimental Evidence From a Reforestation Project in Germany. ZEW Discussion Paper No. 21-088. [Currently under review in peer-reviewed journal.]