Climate change mitigation is mostly assessed through the lens of technologies and policy instruments. However, governance and social capital are crucial factors in complex social systems and may be relevant in the formation of effective climate policies. Here, we investigate the role of quality of governance (QoG), social capital, and equality as preconditions for enacting climate policies. Relying on indicators of social systems at the nation-state level, we investigate relationships with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Structural Equation Models (SEM). We find that quality of governance, measured as impartiality, underpins social capital and interpersonal trust, equality, and effective climate mitigation policies, indicated by the level of carbon pricing. Impartiality and social capital are necessary conditions for climate policies. Socio-economic inequalities reduce trust and political engagement and thus compromise the overarching goal of climate change mitigation. Evidence from complementary literature indicates that fairly implemented climate policies could foster a virtuous cycle that further improves quality of governance, and thus the capacity for implementing strong climate policies. Our results demonstrate that impartial governance and resulting social capital form the underpinnings of effective climate polices.
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