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The case for intensity targets

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  • William A. Pizer

Abstract

While most of the world has pursued absolute emission limits for greenhouse gases, the Bush administration has proposed an alternative policy formulation based, among other things, on reducing emissions intensity-that is, emissions per dollar of real gross domestic product (GDP). Critics of this formulation have denounced the general idea of an intensity-based emission target, along with its voluntary nature and modest targets. This raises the question of whether intensity-based emission limits, distinct from the other features of the Bush initiative, offer a useful alternative to absolute emission limits. This essay makes the case that they do, based on how emission targets are framed. The argument draws on four key observations: greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise over the near term; absolute targets emphasize zero or declining emissions growth while intensity targets do not; developing countries' economic development is integrally tied to emissions growth for the foreseeable future; and intensity targets need not be any more complicated to administer than absolute targets.

Suggested Citation

  • William A. Pizer, 2005. "The case for intensity targets," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 455-462, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:5:y:2005:i:4:p:455-462
    DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2005.9685570
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Burtraw, Dallas & Evans, David, 2003. "The Evolution of NOx Control Policy for Coal-Fired Power Plants in the United States," Discussion Papers dp-03-23, Resources For the Future.
    2. Pizer, William A., 2002. "Combining price and quantity controls to mitigate global climate change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 409-434, September.
    3. Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen, 2003. "The Paparazzi Take a Look at a Living Legend: The SO2 Cap-and-Trade Program for Power Plants in the United States," Discussion Papers dp-03-15, Resources For the Future.
    4. Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen L., 2003. "The Paparazzi Take a Look at a Living Legend: The SO2 Cap-and-Trade Program for Power Plants in the United States," Discussion Papers 10665, Resources for the Future.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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