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Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy


  • Don Fullerton


While prior literature has identified various effects of environmental policy, this note uses the example of a proposed carbon permit system to illustrate and discuss six different types of distributional effects: (1) higher prices of carbon-intensive products, (2) changes in relative returns to factors like labor, capital, and resources, (3) allocation of scarcity rents from a restricted number of permits, (4) distribution of the benefits from improvements in environmental quality, (5) temporary effects during the transition, and (6) capitalization of all those effects into prices of land, corporate stock, or house values. The note also discusses whether all six effects could be regressive, that is, whether carbon policy could place disproportionate burden on the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Don Fullerton, 2010. "Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3299, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3299

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olivier Deschênes & Michael Greenstone, 2011. "Climate Change, Mortality, and Adaptation: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather in the US," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 152-185, October.
    2. Olivier Deschênes, 2011. "Climate Policy and Labor Markets," NBER Chapters,in: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy, pages 37-49 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Kalkuhl & Ottmar Edenhofer & Kai Lessmann, 2015. "The Role of Carbon Capture and Sequestration Policies for Climate Change Mitigation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 60(1), pages 55-80, January.
    2. Philippe Bontems & Estelle Gozlan, 2018. "Trade, Environment and Income Inequality: An Optimal Taxation Approach," Post-Print hal-01702525, HAL.
    3. Klenert, David & Mattauch, Linus, 2016. "How to make a carbon tax reform progressive: The role of subsistence consumption," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 100-103.
    4. Pashardes, Panos & Pashourtidou, Nicoletta & Zachariadis, Theodoros, 2014. "Estimating welfare aspects of changes in energy prices from preference heterogeneity," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 58-66.
    5. Andrea Baranzini & Jeroen van den Bergh & Stefano Carattini & Richard Howarth & Emilio Padilla & Jordi Roca, 2015. "Seven Reasons to Use Carbon Pricing in Climate Policy," Working Papers wpdea1507, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.
    6. Geoffrey Heal & Bengt Kriström, 2014. "Distribution, sustainability and environmental policy," Chapters,in: Handbook of Sustainable Development, chapter 11, pages 175-187 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Wang, Feng & Zhang, Bing, 2016. "Distributional incidence of green electricity price subsidies in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 27-38.
    8. Vandyck, Toon & Van Regemorter, Denise, 2014. "Distributional and regional economic impact of energy taxes in Belgium," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 190-203.
    9. Terry Dinan, 2012. "Offsetting a Carbon Tax’s Costs on Low-Income Households: Working Paper 2012-16," Working Papers 43713, Congressional Budget Office.
    10. Rausch, Sebastian & Schwarz, Giacomo A., 2016. "Household heterogeneity, aggregation, and the distributional impacts of environmental taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 43-57.
    11. repec:eee:inteco:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:80-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Heindl, Peter & Löschel, Andreas, 2015. "Social implications of green growth policies from the perspective of energy sector reform and its impact on households," ZEW Discussion Papers 15-012, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    13. repec:bla:coecpo:v:36:y:2018:i:1:p:149-166 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Gsottbauer, Elisabeth & Logar, Ivana & van den Bergh, Jeroen, 2015. "Towards a fair, constructive and consistent criticism of all valuation languages: Comment on Kallis et al. (2013)," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 164-169.
    15. Drupp, Moritz A. & Meya, Jasper N. & Baumgärtner, Stefan & Quaas, Martin F., 2017. "Economic inequality and the value of nature," Economics Working Papers 2017-08, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
    16. Haradhan Kumar Mohajan, 2011. "Optimal Environmental Taxes Due to Health Effect," KASBIT Business Journals, Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Institute of Technology (KASBIT), vol. 4, pages 1-19, December.
    17. Solomon Hsiang & Paulina Oliva & Reed Walker, 2017. "The Distribution of Environmental Damages," NBER Working Papers 23882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Toon Vandyck, 2013. "Efficiency and equity aspects of energy taxation," ERSA conference papers ersa13p945, European Regional Science Association.
    19. Granqvist, Harry & Grover, David, 2016. "Distributive fairness in paying for clean energy infrastructure," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 87-97.
    20. Grainger, Corbett A., 2012. "The distributional effects of pollution regulations: Do renters fully pay for cleaner air?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 840-852.

    More about this item


    tax incidence; climate policy; capitalization effects; general equilibrium;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects


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