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Environmental prices, uncertainty and learning

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  • Simon Dietz
  • Samuel Fankhauser
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    Abstract

    There is an increasing demand for putting a shadow price on the environment to guide public policy and incentivise private behaviour. In practice, setting that price can be extremely difficult as uncertainties abound. There is often uncertainty not just about individual parameters but about the structure of the problem and how to model it. A further complication is the second-best nature of real environmental policy making. In this paper, we propose some practical steps for setting prices in the face of these difficulties, drawing on the example of climate change. We consider how to determine the overall target for environmental protection, how to set shadow prices to deliver that target, and how we can learn from the performance of policies to revise targets and prices. Perhaps most significantly, we suggest that estimates of the marginal cost of environmental protection, rather than the marginal benefit, will often provide the more consistent and robust prices for achieving targets.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in its series Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers with number 10.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp10

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    1. William D. Nordhaus & David Popp, 1997. "What is the Value of Scientific Knowledge? An Application to Global Warming Using the PRICE Model," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-45.
    2. Parry, Ian & Small, Kenneth, 2002. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," Discussion Papers dp-02-12-, Resources For the Future.
    3. Henry, Claude, 1974. "Investment Decisions Under Uncertainty: The "Irreversibility Effect."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 1006-12, December.
    4. Jonathan Kohler, Michael Grubb, David Popp and Ottmar Edenhofer , 2006. "The Transition to Endogenous Technical Change in Climate-Economy Models: A Technical Overview to the Innovation Modeling Comparison Project," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Special I), pages 17-56.
    5. Onno Kuik & Luke Brander & Richard S. J. Tol, 2008. "Marginal Abatement Costs of Carbon-Dioxide Emissions: A Meta-Analysis," Papers WP248, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    6. Kolstad, Charles D., 1996. "Learning and Stock Effects in Environmental Regulation: The Case of Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, July.
    7. Samuel Fankhauser & Richard Tol & DAVID Pearce, 1997. "The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: a Welfare Theoretic Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(3), pages 249-266, October.
    8. Ian W. H. Parry & Margaret Walls & Winston Harrington, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(2), pages 373-399, June.
    9. Tol, Richard S. J., 2007. "The Social Cost of Carbon: Trends, Outliers and Catastrophes," Economics Discussion Papers 2007-44, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
    10. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    11. Simon Dietz & Nicholas Stern, 2008. "Why Economic Analysis Supports Strong Action on Climate Change: A Response to the Stern Review's Critics," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 94-113, Winter.
    12. Paolella, Marc S. & Taschini, Luca, 2008. "An econometric analysis of emission allowance prices," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 2022-2032, October.
    13. Bohi, Douglas R. & Burtraw, Dallas, 1997. "SO2 allowance trading: How do expectations and experience measure up?," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 10(7), pages 67-75.
    14. Gollier, Christian & Jullien, Bruno & Treich, Nicolas, 2000. "Scientific progress and irreversibility: an economic interpretation of the 'Precautionary Principle'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 229-253, February.
    15. Ulph, Alistair & Ulph, David, 1997. "Global Warming, Irreversibility and Learning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(442), pages 636-50, May.
    16. Robert J. Lempert & David G. Groves & Steven W. Popper & Steve C. Bankes, 2006. "A General, Analytic Method for Generating Robust Strategies and Narrative Scenarios," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(4), pages 514-528, April.
    17. Arrow, Kenneth J & Fisher, Anthony C, 1974. "Environmental Preservation, Uncertainty, and Irreversibility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 312-19, May.
    18. West, Sarah E. & Williams III, Roberton C., 2007. "Optimal taxation and cross-price effects on labor supply: Estimates of the optimal gas tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 593-617, April.
    19. Cameron Hepburn, 2006. "Regulation by Prices, Quantities, or Both: A Review of Instrument Choice," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(2), pages 226-247, Summer.
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