Equity Preferences and Abatement Cost Sharing in International Environmental Agreements

Tobias Börger* (Corresponding Author), Nick Hanley, Robert J Johnston, Keila Meginnis, Tom Ndebele, Ghamz E Ali Siyal, Frans de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines empirically the importance of equity preferences for the formation of international environmental agreements (IEA) for transboundary pollution control. Although it has been shown theoretically that the existence of equity preferences among countries considering an IEA increases the chances for formation and stability of a coalition, empirical assessments of such preferences have been limited to climate change mitigation and single-country studies. We consider the case of marine plastic pollution, of which a large share consists of food and beverage containers, representing a transboundary pollution control problem of increasing policy concern, with properties that lead to distinct considerations for equity and the sharing of abatement costs. We employ a coordinated choice experiment in the United Kingdom and United States to assess preferences for abatement-cost allocations in a marine plastics IEA. Pairs of cooperating countries and the relative allocation of abatement costs are varied experimentally. Results show systematic aversion to both advantageous and disadvantageous inequality with respect to abatement costs but also that the relative strength of advantageous and disadvantageous inequality aversion differs across countries. Across both countries, there is evidence that left-leaning voters generally favor more equal international sharing of abatement costs. Differences of these results from the case of greenhouse gas emission reduction, and implications for current efforts to establish a legally binding global treaty on marine plastic pollution, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-441
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was conducted as part of the project “The Economics of Marine Plastic Pollution—What Are the Benefits of International Cooperation?” funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ES/S002448/2). The support of the ESRC is gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Any remaining errors are those of the authors alone. Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Data Availability Statement

Supporting Information:
Additional supporting information can be found online in the Supporting Information section at the end of this article.


  • abatement costs
  • choice experiment
  • equity preferences
  • inequalityaversion
  • International environmental agreement
  • marine plastics


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