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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.

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Paper provided by China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics in its series CEMA Working Papers with number 583.

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Length: 59 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Annals of Economics and Finance, May 2014, pages 189-248
Handle: RePEc:cuf:wpaper:583
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cema.cufe.edu.cn/

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