The Role of Recipients in Environmental Policies: An Exploration of People’s Willingness to Pay in Order to Protect the Environment in UAE
(September 30- October 3, 2015). The Role of Recipients in Sustaining Environmental Policies in United Arab Emirates. Paper presented at the Southeast Conference on Public Administration (SECoPA), Charleston, South Carolina, USA (Embassy Suites Hotel Airport/ Convention Center).
Place: SECoPA Conference Charleston, SC, USA
Date: September 30 October 4, 2015
Sponsored by: This research has been funded by a generous research grant from the Advanced Research Program at United Arab Emirates University #31H086 - UPAR(2)2014
- Researchers argue that public polices become better implemented when policymakers take in consideration recipients’ preferences; it reduces resistance and improves cooperation and engagement.
- Unfortunately, people’s preferences are not always clear, consistent, or expressed in timely manner especially in matters such as environmental issues.
- The purpose of the present study is:
- To explore people’s opinion about their willingness to pay to protect the environment.
- Attempt to test the argument of Liebe, Preisendörfer, and Meyerthoff (2011) which claimed that utilizing one theoretical framework is insufficient and inadequate to explain environmental attitude, especially the willingness to pay.
Background and Theory #section2
- There are two main schools of thought that explain willingness to pay (WTP);
- the four major theories which are capable separately and individually to explain WTP. Theses theories are: economic/rational theory, behavioral theory, altruistic theory, and public goods theory.
- there is no one single theory that can independently explain WTP because environmental behavior is too sophisticated for one theory to be capable of providing to it a clear, comprehensive, reasonable, and coherent explanation.
Economic theory of WTP #section3
- Economic theory is a rational way to look at people’s behavior.
- People are rational, therefore they seek to maximize and optimize their own self interests.
- People’s valuation of environmental goods explains which good to be supported (i.e., pay for).
- People are motivated to pay by the expectations to gain benefits.
- People with higher income are more likely to pay more.
- However, this theory fails to explain why poor people and why people in general volunteer to protect the environment when there is no benefit to gain except the good feeling that they are doing the right thing.
- Such feeling is not explained in economic terms, but rather by altruistic principles.
Altruistic theory #section4
- Spiritual, moral, and human values motivate people to do good.
- People pay to protect the environment because they have enough non-materialistic incentives to do so; feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
- Environmental citizenship is the product of altruistic feeling.
- People spend resources (money, time, effort, and energy) to protect the environment even though there is no economic utility expected out of their behavior.
- However, this theory fails alone to explain why the so called “altruistic” and “environmental” citizens pay different amounts for different environmental causes. Their willingness also to pay varies from one environmental good to another. It also fails to explain the contradiction in people’s WTP and their behavior in littering or over-consuming of water or energy.
Public goods theory #section5
- The environment is a good (commodity) that has specific price.
- Valuation of the environment is based on perceiving the environment as a commodity that has price; clean beach, clean streets, clean air, clean water etc.
- People are confident that they cannot be excluded from using or benefiting from public environmental goods even if they do not pay for them; people cannot be excluded from breathing clean air.
- Therefore, people tend not to make contribution (zero contribution) to protect the environment and rely instead on “others” to make such contribution; they do not pay but expect others to pay.
- Thus, they relieve themselves from the responsibility of protecting the environment.
- Valuation of environmental goods and free-rider problems are rooted in the rational theory; people compare their benefits with cost they pay.
- However, this theory failed to explain WTP without relying on the rational theory and altruistic theory.
Social theory #section6
- There are several factors that explain the environmental behavior, especially WTP.
- These factors are:
- Positive behavior towards the environment: feeling good about it.
- Social pressure: society pressing individuals to behave in certain ways.
- Perception of environmental contribution: if a person perceived the environment as important, he/she would be more willing to make a contribution to protect it.
- The more often these three factors occur altogether, the more likely people to make a contribution (i.e. WTP, participate in environmental activities).
- When people get in contact with the environment, they tend to support that aspect of the environment (e.g. hikers to protect forests and sea divers to protect seas).
- However, this theory fails alone to explain why people who have no contact with the environment make a lot of contributions to protect it. It does not also explain why people who have contact with the environment ‘pick and choose’ what to protect or why they ruin the environment despite their contact with it.
Methods and Data #section7
- Data collected from 1282 respondents in UAE.
- SPSS is used.
- Research is funded by a grant from UAE University #31H086-UPAR(2)2014.
- Survey is used with three-response scale: favor, disfavor, neutral.
- The dependent variable is WTP.
- Results of sample description show that the study sample represents the UAE middle class.
Findings and Conclusion #section8
- Findings support the argument of Liebe et al (2011).
- Despite the fact that 56% of the respondents have positive attitudes toward the environment (altruistic theory), their support of the environment is conditional and fluctuating.
- Findings show that the respondents value the environment differently; they value some aspects more than valuing other aspects.
- People’s support of the environment declined from 51.6% ‘supporting garbage reduction’ to:-
- 45% ‘supporting reduction in energy consumption’, and to
- 28.3% ‘supporting car usage reduction’ and to
- 22% ‘supporting reduction of household consumption’.
- We can argue that people were altruistic but also were acting rationally in absence of social pressure to act selfishless; their valuation of the environment varied based on their perceived utility of each aspect of the environment rather than the moral value of it.
- It also seems that people supported the environment as long as it did not touch their personal and daily life; they supported what was remote and did not directly affect them.
- Despite the altruistic and positive attitudes, they shift the responsibility of protecting the environment to other stakeholders, specifically the government. They minimally make contribution.
- Consistent with the social theory, people’s poor ‘actual’ contribution and involvement can be explained by the fact that the absence of social pressure on individuals to contribute to protect the environment, they feel no urgency or pressure to make a contribution, aside from symbolic support. Therefore, changing one’s behavior is not a priority to them.
- Also, based on the same theory, people act rationally by comparing the benefits they gain from positively changing their behavior with the cost they pay if changed their life or reduced the luxury of life they currently enjoy.
- 46.8% of the respondents indicated willingness to pay. Modest but positive percentage.
- The problem appears in the “targeted environmental goods” for which people are willing to pay;
- Only 9.7% are willing to pay to reduce dependency or usage of gasoline.
- 31.5% willingness to pay taxes on household garbage.
- It seems that valuation of environmental goods is subject to personal and rational calculations rather than on feeling that each environmental problem is a personal problem that requires personal action.
- Although the study showed that people trusted their government to protect the environment, their trust meant that they shifted the burden of caring or protecting the environment to ‘others’ to worry about.
- Government’s need to educate people about their responsibilities and improve their level of efficacy and involvement.
- The UAE government’s plan to introduce tax system may not be feasible at a time when people are still reliant on the government and have poor awareness of the environment and how it can affect their personal lives. Gradual change and gradual taxation system can be a better alternative.
- More studies will be needed on WTP.