Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Should Greenhouse Gas Permits Be Allocated On a Per Capita Basis?

Contents:

Author Info

  • Posner, Eric A.
  • Sunstein, Cass R.
Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    Many people believe that the problem of climate change would be best handled by an international agreement that includes a system of cap and trade. Such a system would impose a global cap on greenhouse gases emissions and allocate tradable emissions permits. This proposal raises a crucial but insufficiently explored question: How should such permits be allocated' It is tempting to suggest that in principle, allocation should be done on a per capita basis, with the idea that each person should begin with the same entitlement, regardless of place of birth. This idea, pressed by many analysts and by the developing world, can be defended on grounds of either welfare or fairness. But on both grounds, per capita allocations run into serious objections. If fairness is understood in terms of equally or proportionally sharing the burdens of a climate treaty, per capita allocations are not fair because they do not take into account all the effects of such a treaty. Any agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will give more benefits to some nations than to others, and will impose more costs on some nations than on others; in these circumstances, per capita emissions rights give the appearance but not the reality of fairness. For those who seek redistribution to those who need help, on grounds of either welfare or fairness, per capita allocations of emissions rights are at best a mixed blessing. Some rich nations are highly populated, and some poor nations have small populations; there is essentially no relationship between size of population and per capita wealth. Per capita allocations would also create serious incentive problems, and they would face decisive objections from the standpoint of feasibility: Per capita rights would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars annually from the United States to China and India, and the United States is most unlikely to sign a treaty with that consequence. Comparisons are drawn between per capita allocations and other approaches, including those based on existing emissions rates and those with self-conscious redistributive aims. A general goal is to balance welfarist and fairness goals with feasibility constraints; per capita allocations do a poor job of achieving that balance, and an insistence on that approach might make the climate change problem intractable. These conclusions have general implications for thinking about normative goals and practical limitations in the context of international law.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://regulation2point0.org/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=181
    Our checks indicate that this address may not be valid because: 404 Not Found. If this is indeed the case, please notify (Archive Maintainer)
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Regulation2point0 in its series Working paper with number 181.

    as in new window
    Length:
    Date of creation: Mar 2008
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:reg:wpaper:181

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page: http://regulation2point0.org/

    Related research

    Keywords:

    References

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    Citations

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:reg:wpaper:181. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Archive Maintainer).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.