Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 613–626 | Cite as

Can Defaults Save the Climate? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Carbon Offsetting Programs

  • Jorge E. ArañaEmail author
  • Carmelo J. León


Individual preferences for environmental policies can be influenced by the frame in which choices and decisions are presented. In this paper we present results of a field experiment on the contributions to carbon offsetting programs under two alternative treatments for the default option. The opt-in treatment asked subjects to pay for the policy proposal while the opt-out treatment asked subjects if they wanted to be excluded from payment for the policy proposal. The results show that the frame of the default option had a significant effect on the amount of money paid for the policy proposal. Subjects were more likely to accept the policy proposal if the default option was the opt-out treatment. The results have implications for the design of environmental policies.


Carbon offsetting Defaults Environmental policy Field experiments Framing 



The authors greatly acknowledge financial support by the projects VEM2004-08558 and ECO2009-12629 of the Spanish Ministry of Education and project 200801000381 of the Agencia Canaria de Investigación (ACIISI). Useful comments and discussion with W. Michael Hanemann, Jordan Louviere, Bart Frischknecht helped to improve the piece. This paper was finished while Carmelo León was visiting the Center for the Study of Choice (CenSoc) at University of Technology of Sydney. Acknowledgment for access to an excellent and inspiring working environment is also recognized. Only the authors are responsible for the opinions expressed and potential errors in the content.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Tourism and Sustainable Development Economics (TIDES)Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Las PalmasSpain
  2. 2.Center for the Study of Choice (CenSoc)University of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia

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