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Setting the Initial Time-Profile of Climate Policy: The Economics of Environmental Policy Phase-Ins

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  • Roberton C. Williams III

Abstract

This paper considers the question of under what circumstances a new environmental regulation should “phase in” gradually over time, rather than being immediately implemented at full force. The paper focuses particularly on climate policy, though its insights are more general. It shows that while adjustment costs provide a strong efficiency argument for phasing in a quantity-based regulation (or allowing intertemporal flexibility that creates the equivalent of a phase-in), this argument does not apply for price-based regulation. Indeed, in many cases, it will be more efficient to do just the opposite, setting an initially very high emissions price that then falls as the policy phases in. This difference in results comes not from any fundamental difference between price and quantity policies: under either policy, the efficient quantity of abatement rises over time, while the efficient price stays constant or even falls. But other considerations, such as distributional concerns or monitoring and enforcement issues, may still argue for a gradual phase-in even for a price-based policy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16120.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Publication status: published as Setting the Initial Time-Profile of Climate Policy: The Economics of Environmental Policy Phase-Ins , Roberton C. Williams III. in The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy , Fullerton and Wolfram. 2012
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16120

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  1. Montero, Juan-Pablo, 2000. "Optimal design of a phase-in emissions trading program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 273-291, February.
  2. Goulder, Lawrence H. & Mathai, Koshy, 2000. "Optimal CO2 Abatement in the Presence of Induced Technological Change," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-38, January.
  3. Manne, Alan & Richels, Richard, 2004. "The impact of learning-by-doing on the timing and costs of CO2 abatement," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 603-619, July.
  4. Zodrow, George R., 1985. "Optimal tax reform in the presence of adjustment costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 211-230, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Matthias Kalkuhl & Ottmar Edenhofer & Kai Lessmann, 2011. "Renewable Energy Subsidies: Second-Best Policy or Fatal Aberration for Mitigation?," Working Papers 2011.48, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Rozenberg, Julie & Vogt-Schilb, Adrien & Hallegatte, Stephane, 2014. "Transition to clean capital, irreversible investment and stranded assets," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6859, The World Bank.

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