Citizens’ Contestation of a just Climate Policy - Exploring Perceptions of Distribution, Procedure and Recognition Justice of Climate Policy: A Case Study of the Yellow Vests Movement
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States worldwide are facing the challenge of implementing climate mitigation policies that are accepted by the public. Especially carbon pricing has met strong resistance. Among other factors, climate policy acceptance can be predicted by one’s subjective perceptions of a policy being (un)just which are influenced by the individual’s personal characteristics and situational factors. Based on an in-depth case study of the contestation of a just climate policy by the French Yellow Vests movement, this study seeks to analyze citizens’ justice perceptions as determinant of climate policy acceptance. Specifically, it focuses on (1) exploring patterns of justice perceptions of climate policy across citizens and (2) identifying causal links that explain which underlying factors influence these perceptions. The trivalent framework of Environmental Justice consisting of distributional, procedural and recognitional dimensions, and perceiver and situational factors derived from basic justice perception theory are operationalized in a content analysis of primary data, including 383 citizens’ statements from public and governmental sources. Using abductive reasoning, previously insufficiently considered interrelations are revealed in an analysis of strongly deviating semantics of Facebook comments, Parliamentary debates, and two citizens’ participatory processes i.e. Grand Débat National and Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat. All justice dimensions are present in the analyzed statements. Distributive justice is addressed in various ways and can be linked to income effects resulting from carbon pricing. Lowest incomes, the mobility dependency of many French citizens, and the undercharged industry are in focus. Procedural injustices are linked to the idea that the government and hence climate policy, are dominated by economically oriented elites, which deny citizens access to decision-making processes. The insufficient consideration of future generations or nature as such dominates the perception of an unjust recognition. The influence of the identified factors can be mapped into nine causal structures, which in turn can be grouped into three thematical groups. The first group shows the influence of unequal income distribution, neglected transport infrastructure and preference for industrial agriculture on perceived injustices. The second group shows the perceived value-orientation of the elites, distrust in the government and the insufficient presence of France in international climate policy as main factor. The main influencing factor of the third group is the YV's socio-ecological self- understanding, from which perceptions regarding the justice of strong civic engagement are derived. In context, the findings suggest how the identity of the YV as a social group can be reconstructed from the thematical groups.