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Second-best instruments for near-term climate policy: Intensity targets vs. the safety valve

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  • Webster, Mort
  • Sue Wing, Ian
  • Jakobovits, Lisa

Abstract

Current proposals for greenhouse gas emissions regulations in the United States mainly take the form of emissions caps with tradable permits. Since Weitzman's (1974) [3] study of prices vs. quantities, economic theory predicts that a price instrument is superior under uncertainty in the case of stock pollutants. Given the general belief in the political infeasibility of a carbon tax in the US, there has been recent interest in two other policy instrument designs: hybrid policies and intensity targets. We extend the Weitzman model to derive an analytical expression for the expected net benefits of a hybrid instrument under uncertainty. We compare this expression to one developed by Newell and Pizer (2006) [6] for an intensity target, and show the theoretical minimum correlation between GDP and emissions required for an intensity target to be preferred over a hybrid. In general, we show that unrealistically high correlations are required for the intensity target to be preferred to a hybrid, making a hybrid a more practical instrument in practice. We test the predictions by performing Monte Carlo simulation on a computable general equilibrium model of the US economy. The results are similar, and we show with the numerical model that when marginal abatement costs are non-linear, an even higher correlation is required for an intensity target to be preferred over a safety valve.

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  • Webster, Mort & Sue Wing, Ian & Jakobovits, Lisa, 2010. "Second-best instruments for near-term climate policy: Intensity targets vs. the safety valve," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 250-259, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeeman:v:59:y:2010:i:3:p:250-259
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    14. Richard S.J. Tol, 2018. "Energy and Climate," Working Paper Series 1618, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
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    17. Fell, Harrison & Burtraw, Dallas & Morgenstern, Richard D. & Palmer, Karen L., 2012. "Soft and hard price collars in a cap-and-trade system: A comparative analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 183-198.
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    19. Richard S. J. Tol, 2022. "Costs and Benefits of the Paris Climate Targets," Papers 2209.00900, arXiv.org.
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    21. Verónica Gutman, 2017. "Economics and Climate Change: An economic analysis of mitigation decisions in Latin America," Economía, Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (IIES). Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Sociales. Universidad de Los Andes. Mérida, Venezuela, vol. 42(44), pages 11-36, july-dece.
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