IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • van Benthem, Arthur A.
  • Kerr, Suzi


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

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    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


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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:aare11:100569. 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: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.