Working Paper 12-13 - Is offshoring driven by air emissions? Testing the pollution haven effect for imports of intermediates
Over the last couple of decades, trade liberalisation has progressed and environmental regulations have become more stringent, in particular regarding emissions of air pollution. This has raised the fear in developed countries that emission-intensive activities are increasingly carried out abroad. This paper develops an approach for testing whether emission-intensive industries have greater shares of imported intermediate materials. The test is applied to the Belgian manufacturing sector for the years 1995-2007. Emissions of three types of air pollutants are analysed: greenhouse gases, acidifying gases and tropospheric precursor gases. The results provide evidence that industries with a high intensity in acidifying gas emissions (SO2, NOX and NH3) tend to import a greater share of intermediate materials. This is likely to be linked to the stricter enforcement of regulations for air quality, which act upon acidifying gases. There is no such evidence in the results for emissions of tropospheric precursor gases and in particular of greenhouse gases. Regarding the latter, despite stringent regulations, enforcement appears to be less strict.
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