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Carbon taxes, the greenhouse effect, and developing countries


  • Anwar Shah

    (The World Bank)

  • Bjorn Larsen

    (The World Bank)


The authors evaluate the case for carbon taxes in terms of national interests. They reach the following conclusions. (A) A global carbon tax involves issues of international resource transfers and would be difficult to administer and enforce. It is thus unlikely to be implemented in the near future. (b) National carbon taxes can raise significant revenues cost-effectively in developing countries and are not likely to be as regressive in their impact as commonly perceived. Such taxes can also enhance economic efficiency if introduced as a revenue-neutral partial replacement for corporate income taxes or in cases where subsidies are prevalent. The welfare costs of carbon taxes generally vary directly with the existing level of energy taxes, so a carbon tax should be an instrument of choice for countries such as India and Indonesia, which have few or no energy taxes. A carbon tax can significantly reduce local pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Cost-benefit analysis shows countries with few or no energy taxes substantially gaining from carbon taxes in terms of an improved local environment. A carbon tax of $10 a ton produces very small output losses for Pakistani industries analyzed in this paper, and the output losses are fully offset by health benefits from reduced emissions of local pollutants - even ignoring the global implications of a reduced greenhouse effect. Tradable permits are preferable to carbon taxes where the critical threshold of the stock of carbon emission beyond which temperatures would rise exponentially is known. Given our current ignorance on the costs of reducing carbon emissions and the threshold effect, a carbon tax appears to be a better and more flexible instrument for avoiding large unexpected costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Anwar Shah & Bjorn Larsen, 2008. "Carbon taxes, the greenhouse effect, and developing countries," CEMA Working Papers 583, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cuf:wpaper:583

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhang, ZhongXiang & Baranzini, Andrea, 2004. "What do we know about carbon taxes? An inquiry into their impacts on competitiveness and distribution of income," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 507-518, March.
    2. Lawrence H. Goulder, 1998. "Environmental Policy Making in a Second-Best Setting," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 1, pages 279-328, November.
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    5. Ross McKitrick, 1997. "Double Dividend Environmental Taxation and Canadian Carbon Emissions Control," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 23(4), pages 417-438, December.
    6. Zhang, Zhong Xiang, 1995. "Energy conservation in China : An international perspective," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 159-166, February.
    7. Bovenberg, A. Lans & Goulder, Lawrence H., 2002. "Environmental taxation and regulation," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1471-1545 Elsevier.
    8. Callan, Tim & Lyons, Sean & Scott, Susan & Tol, Richard S.J. & Verde, Stefano, 2009. "The distributional implications of a carbon tax in Ireland," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 407-412, February.
    9. James Davies & Xiaojun Shi & John Whalley, 2014. "The possibilities for global inequality and poverty reduction using revenues from global carbon pricing," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(3), pages 363-391, September.
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    16. Lykke E. Andersen, 2015. "A Cost-benefit Analysis of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon," Discussion Papers 0065, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
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    19. Larsen, Bjorn & Shah, Anwar, 1994. "Global Tradeable Carbon Permits, Participation Incentives, and Transfers," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(0), pages 841-856, Supplemen.
    20. Jaeger, William K., 1995. "The welfare cost of a global carbon tax when tax revenues are recycled," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 47-67, May.
    21. Eskeland, Gunnar S. & Jimenez, Emmanuel & Lili Liu & DEC, 1994. "Energy pricing and air pollution : econometric evidence from manufacturing in Chile and Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1323, The World Bank.
    22. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Go, Delfin S. & Robinson, Sherman & Thierfelder, Karen, 2009. "Tax policy to reduce carbon emissions in south Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4933, The World Bank.
    23. Larsen, Bjorn & Shah, Anwar & DEC, 1992. "World fossil fuel subsidies and global carbon emissions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1002, The World Bank.
    24. Philip Fearnside, 1997. "Monitoring needs to transform Amazonian forest maintenance into a global warming-mitigation option," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 285-302, June.
    25. Larsen, Bjorn, 1994. "World fossil fuel subsidies and global carbon emissions in a model with interfuel substitution," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1256, The World Bank.

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