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Level versus Equivalent Intensity Carbon Mitigation Commitments

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  • Huifang Tian
  • John Whalley

Abstract

Large population / rapidly growing economies such as China and India have argued that in the upcoming UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen, any emission reduction targets they take on should be based on their intensity of emissions (emissions/$GDP) on a target date not the level of emissions. They argue that this will allow room for their continued high growth, and level commitments in the presence of sharply differential growth between OECD and non-OECD economies represent asymmetric and unacceptable arrangements. Much of the policy literature agrees with this position, also arguing that while there is equivalence between commitments if growth rates are certain, where growth rates are uncertain equivalence breaks down. However, no explicit models or experimental design are used to support this claim. Here we use a modeling framework in which countries face a business as usual (BAU) growth profile under no mitigation, and can mitigate (reduce consumption) and lower temperature change but with a utility loss. International trade enters through trade in country differentiated goods, and the impact of mitigation on country welfare depends critically on the assumed severity of climate related damage. We then consider cases where country growth rates are uncertain, and compare the impacts of levels versus intensity commitments, with the latter made equivalent in the sense that expected emissions are the same. There are different senses of this equivalence; global equivalence with differing country impacts, or strict country by country equivalence. Under intensity commitments there is more variation in both consumption and emissions than is the case with level commitments, and we show cases where level commitments are preferred to intensity commitments by all countries. Whether this is the case also depends upon how growth rate uncertainty is specified. We are also able to consider packages of mixed level and intensity commitments by country which might be the outcome of UNFCCC negotiations. Outcomes can thus be opposite to prevailing opinion, but it depends on how the equivalent targets are specified.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15370.

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Date of creation: Sep 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15370

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  1. Cai, Yuezhou & Riezman, Raymond & Whalley, John, 2013. "International trade and the negotiability of global climate change agreements," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 421-427.
  2. Henry D. Jacoby & Richard S. Eckaus & A. Denny Ellerman & Ronald G. Prinn & David M. Reiner & Zili Yang, 1997. "CO2 Emissions Limits: Economic Adjustments and the Distribution of Burdens," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 31-58.
  3. Pizer, William & Newell, Richard, 1998. "Regulating Stock Externalities Under Uncertainty," Discussion Papers dp-99-10-rev, Resources For the Future.
  4. Barros, Vincente & Grand, Mariana Conte, 2002. "Implications of a dynamic target of greenhouse gases emission reduction: the case of Argentina," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(03), pages 547-569, July.
  5. Huifang Tian & John Whalley, 2008. "China's Participation in Global Environmental Negotiations," NBER Working Papers 14460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Marschinski, Robert & Edenhofer, Ottmar, 2010. "Revisiting the case for intensity targets: Better incentives and less uncertainty for developing countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 5048-5058, September.

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