Climate Action for (My) Children

37 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2020

See all articles by Helena Fornwagner

Helena Fornwagner

University of Regensburg

Oliver Hauser

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 23, 2020


Sustaining large-scale public goods, such as the environment, requires individuals to take action; however, motivating voluntary climate action (VCA) is difficult because decision-makers today do not stand to benefit from their investments. Here, we propose that parents invest more in VCA if their link to future generations—through their offspring—is made salient. In a novel lab-in-the-field experiment, we vary whether parents are observed during a VCA decision (i.e., investing in planting real-world trees) by their own child. In addition to a no-observer control, we run additional control conditions with an unrelated adult or an unrelated child observing the parent decision-maker. As predicted, VCA varies across conditions, with larger treatment effects occurring when a parent’s own child is the observer. In subgroup analyses, larger treatment effects occur among more educated parents. As a result of this study, VCA across conditions led to 14,000 trees being plant-ed, offsetting approximately 8% of participants’ annual CO2 emissions for around four generations.

Keywords: voluntary climate action, intergenerational cooperation, parents, children, observability, lab-in-the-field experiment

JEL Classification: C99, Q51, Q54, H49, D19

Suggested Citation

Fornwagner, Helena and Hauser, Oliver, Climate Action for (My) Children (October 23, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Helena Fornwagner

University of Regensburg ( email )

Universitstrasse 31
Regensberg D-93053


Oliver Hauser (Contact Author)

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics ( email )

Streatham Court
Exeter, EX4 4RJ
United Kingdom


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