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Politics and Economics of Second-Best Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: The Importance of Regulatory Credibility

Author

Listed:
  • Valentina Bosetti

    (FEEM and CMCC, Italy. Visiting Fellow at Princeton Environmental Institute)

  • David G. Victor

    (International Law & Regulation (ILAR) at UC San Diego, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies)

Abstract

Modellers have examined a wide array of ideal-world scenarios for regulation of greenhouse gases. In this ideal world, all countries limit emissions from all economic sectors; regulations are implemented by intelligent, well-informed forward-looking agents; all abatement options, such as new energy technologies and forestry offsets, are available; trade in goods, services and emission credits is free and unfettered. Here we systematically explore more plausible second-best worlds. While analysts have given inordinate attention to which countries participate in regulation—what we call “variable geometry”—which has a strikingly small impact on total world cost of carbon regulations if international trade in emission credits allows economies to equilibrate. Limits on emission trading raise those costs, but by a much smaller amount than expected because even modest amounts of emission trading (less than 15% of abatement in a plausible scenario that varies the geometry of effort) have a large cost-reducing impact. Second best scenarios that see one sector regulated more aggressively and rapidly than others do not impose much extra burden when compared with optimal all-sector scenarios provided that regulations begin in the power sector. Indeed, some forms of trade regulation might decrease the financial flows associated to a carbon policy thus increasing political feasibility of the climate agreement. Much more important than variable geometry, trading and sectors is another factor that analysts have largely ignored: credibility. In the real world governments find it difficult to craft and implement credible international regulations and thus agents are unable to be so forward-looking as assumed in ideal-world modelling exercises. As credibility declines the cost of coordinated international regulation skyrockets—even in developing countries that are likely to delay their adoption of binding limits on emissions. Because international institutions such as treaties are usually weak, governments must rely on their own actions to boost regulatory credibility—for example, governments might “pre-commit” international regulations into domestic law before international negotiations are finally settled, thus boosting credibility. In our scenarios, China alone would be a net beneficiary of pre-commitment that advances its carbon limits two decades (from 2030, in our scenario, to today) if doing so would make international regulations more credible and thus encourage Chinese firms to invest with a clearer eye to the future. Overall, low credibility is up to 6 times more important in driving higher world costs for carbon regulations when compared with variable geometry, limits on emission trading and variable sectors. In this paper, we have not explored the other major dimension to the second-best: the lack of timely availability of the full range of abatement options, although our results suggest that even this will be less consequential than credibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Valentina Bosetti & David G. Victor, 2010. "Politics and Economics of Second-Best Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: The Importance of Regulatory Credibility," Working Papers 2010.29, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2010.29
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    Cited by:

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    2. John E. Bistline & Francisco Chesnaye, 2017. "Banking on banking: does “when” flexibility mask the costs of stringent climate policy?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 144(4), pages 597-610, October.
    3. Meriem Hamdi-Cherif & Céline Guivarch & Philippe Quirion, 2011. "Sectoral targets for developing countries: combining 'common but differentiated re-sponsibilities' with 'meaningful participation'," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(1), pages 731-751, January.
    4. Labriet, Maryse & Drouet, Laurent & Vielle, Marc & Loulou, Richard & Kanudia, Amit & Haurie, Alain, 2015. "Assessment of the Effectiveness of Global Climate Policies Using Coupled Bottom-up and Top-down Models," Climate Change and Sustainable Development 199946, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    5. Wirl, Franz, 2012. "Global warming: Prices versus quantities from a strategic point of view," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 217-229.
    6. Gregory F. Nemet & Peter Braden & Ed Cubero & Bickey Rimal, 2014. "Four decades of multiyear targets in energy policy: aspirations or credible commitments?," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(5), pages 522-533, September.
    7. Karoline S. Rogge & Elisabeth Dütschke, 2017. "Exploring Perceptions of the Credibility of Policy Mixes: The Case of German Manufacturers of Renewable Power Generation Technologies," SPRU Working Paper Series 2017-23, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
    8. Enrica Cian & Valentina Bosetti & Massimo Tavoni, 2012. "Technology innovation and diffusion in “less than ideal” climate policies: An assessment with the WITCH model," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 114(1), pages 121-143, September.
    9. Vale, Petterson Molina, 2016. "The changing climate of climate change economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 12-19.
    10. Alena Miftakhova & Clément Renoir, 2021. "Economic Growth and Equity in Anticipation of Climate Policy," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 21/355, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    11. Spencer, Thomas & Marcey, Celine & Colombier, Michel & Guerin, Emmanuel, 2011. "Decarbonizing the EU power sector: policy approaches in the light of current trends and long-term trajectories," MPRA Paper 35009, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Nadia Ameli & Paul Drummond & Alexander Bisaro & Michael Grubb & Hugues Chenet, 2020. "Climate finance and disclosure for institutional investors: why transparency is not enough," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 160(4), pages 565-589, June.
    13. Rogge, Karoline S. & Schleich, Joachim, 2018. "Do policy mix characteristics matter for low-carbon innovation? A survey-based exploration of renewable power generation technologies in Germany," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(9), pages 1639-1654.
    14. Feng, Tian-tian & Gong, Xiao-lei & Guo, Yu-hua & Yang, Yi-sheng & Dong, Jun, 2019. "Regulatory mechanism design of GHG emissions in the electric power industry in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 187-201.
    15. Neil Strachan & Will Usher, 2012. "Failure to achieve stringent carbon reduction targets in a second-best policy world," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 113(2), pages 121-139, July.
    16. Charlie Wilson & Arnulf Grubler, 2011. "Lessons from the history of technological change for clean energy scenarios and policies," Natural Resources Forum, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 35(3), pages 165-184, August.
    17. Carraro, Carlo & De Cian, Enrica & Nicita, Lea & Massetti, Emanuele & Verdolini, Elena, 2010. "Environmental Policy and Technical Change: A Survey," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 4(2), pages 163-219, October.
    18. Taran Faehn and Elisabeth T. Isaksen, 2016. "Diffusion of Climate Technologies in the Presence of Commitment Problems," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Greenhouse Gases; Second-best Regulation;

    JEL classification:

    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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