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Bigger is Better: Avoided Deforestation Offsets in the Face of Adverse Selection

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  • van Benthem, Arthur A.
  • Kerr, Suzi

Abstract

Voluntary opt-in programs to reduce emissions in unregulated sectors or countries have spurred considerable discussion. Since any regulator will make errors in predicting baselines and participants will self-select into the program, adverse selection will reduce efficiency and possibly environmental integrity. In contrast, pure subsidies lead to full participation but require large financial transfers. We present a simple model to analyze this trade-off between adverse selection and infra-marginal transfers. We find that increasing the scale of voluntary programs both improves efficiency and reduces transfers. We show that discounting (paying less than full value for offsets) is inefficient and cannot be used to reduce the fraction of offsets that are spurious while setting stringent baselines generally can. Both approaches reduce the cost to the offsets buyer. The effects of two popular policy options are less favorable than many believe: Limiting the number of offsets that can be one-for-one exchanged with permits in a cap-and-trade system will lower the offset price but also quality. Trading ratios between offsets and allowances have ambiguous environmental effects if the cap is not properly adjusted. This paper frames the issues in terms of avoiding deforestation but the results are applicable to any voluntary offset program.

Suggested Citation

  • van Benthem, Arthur A. & Kerr, Suzi, 2011. "Bigger is Better: Avoided Deforestation Offsets in the Face of Adverse Selection," 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia 100569, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aare11:100569
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    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/100569
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    Cited by:

    1. Springborn, Michael & Yeo, Boon-Ling & Lee, Juhwan & Six, Johan, 2013. "Crediting uncertain ecosystem services in a market," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 554-572.
    2. Jonah Busch & Ruben Lubowski & Fabiano Godoy & Marc Steininger & Arief Anshory Yusuf & Kemen Austin & Jenny Hewson & Daniel Juhn & Muhammad Farid & Frederick Boltz, 2011. "Structuring national and sub-national economic incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation in Indonesia," Working Papers in Economics and Development Studies (WoPEDS) 201105, Department of Economics, Padjadjaran University, revised Jun 2011.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Environmental Economics and Policy; deforestation; offsets; adverse selection; REDD; climate change policy; opt-in.;

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