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Trade, climate change and the political game theory of border carbon adjustments

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  • Dieter Helm
  • Cameron Hepburn
  • Giovanni Ruta

Abstract

The lack of real progress at the Durban climate change conference in 2011—postponing effective action until at least 2020—has many causes, one of which is the failure to address trade issues and in particular carbon leakage. This paper advances two arguments. First, it argues that the conventional view of Border Carbon Adjustments (BCAs) as a “dirty” trade barrier should be turned on its head. Rather, the absence of a carbon price comprises an implicit subsidy to dirtier production in non-regulated markets. Second, BCAs could act as a gamechanger when climate policy negotiations move at a glacial pace, if at all. Materially stronger progress could be achieved indirectly from the threat of unilateral trade policies. The paper shows how this could come about, using a simple political game theory model. The appropriate game form is one in which parties move unilaterally and sequentially, given the failure to agree on a common course of action, and are fully aware of the impacts of their actions. The paper shows that properly crafted BCAs could help reduce trade distortions, limit the competiveness effects, and help build a broader coalition of interests for more global actions.

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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 80.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp80

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  1. Hepburn, C.J. & Quah, J.K.-H. & Ritz, R.A., 2012. "Emissions Trading with Profit-Neutral Permit Allocations," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1235, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
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  3. Druckman, A. & Bradley, P. & Papathanasopoulou, E. & Jackson, T., 2008. "Measuring progress towards carbon reduction in the UK," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(4), pages 594-604, July.
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  5. Robert A. Ritz, 2009. "Carbon leakage under incomplete environmental regulation: An industry-level approach," Economics Series Working Papers 461, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Babiker, Mustafa H., 2005. "Climate change policy, market structure, and carbon leakage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 421-445, March.
  7. Reyer Gerlagh & Onno Kuik, 2007. "Carbon Leakage with International Technology Spillovers," Working Papers 2007.33, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  8. Atkinson, Giles & Hamilton, Kirk & Ruta, Giovanni & Van Der Mensbrugghe, Dominique, 2010. "Trade in'virtual carbon': empirical results and implications for policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5194, The World Bank.
  9. Stiglitz Joseph, 2006. "A New Agenda for Global Warming," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(7), pages 1-4, July.
  10. Sergey V. Paltsev, 2001. "The Kyoto Protocol: Regional and Sectoral Contributions to the Carbon Leakage," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 53-80.
  11. Onno Kuik & Reyer Gerlagh, 2003. "Trade Liberalization and Carbon Leakage," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 97-120.
  12. Ellerman,A. Denny & Convery,Frank J. & de Perthuis,Christian, 2010. "Pricing Carbon," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521196475.
  13. Ricardo, David, 1821. "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 3, number ricardo1821.
  14. Copeland, Brian R & Taylor, M Scott, 1995. "Trade and Transboundary Pollution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 716-37, September.
  15. De Perthuis, Christian & Convery, Frank J. & Ellerman, Denny, 2010. "Pricing carbon : the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10174, Paris Dauphine University.
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Cited by:
  1. Morihiro Yomogida & Nori Tarui, 2013. "Emission Taxes and Border Tax Adjustments for Oligopolistic Industries," Working Papers 201317, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  2. Fouré, Jean & Guimbard, Houssein & Monjon, Stéphanie, 2013. "Border Carbon Ajustment in Europe and Trade Retaliation: What would be the Cost for European Union?," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/13008, Paris Dauphine University.
  3. Helm, Dieter, 2014. "The European framework for energy and climate policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 29-35.

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