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Trade, climate change and the political game theory of border carbon adjustments

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  • Dieter Helm
  • Cameron Hepburn
  • Giovanni Ruta

Abstract

The lack of real progress at the Durban climate change conference in 2011�postponing effective action until at least 2020�has many causes, one of which is the failure to address trade issues and in particular carbon leakage. This paper advances two arguments. First, it argues that the conventional view of Border Carbon Adjustments (BCAs) as a �dirty� trade barrier should be turned on its head. Rather, the absence of a carbon price comprises an implicit subsidy to dirtier production in non-regulated markets. Second, BCAs could act as a gamechanger when climate policy negotiations move at a glacial pace, if at all. Materially stronger progress could be achieved indirectly from the threat of unilateral trade policies. The paper shows how this could come about, using a simple political game theory model. The appropriate game form is one in which parties move unilaterally and sequentially, given the failure to agree on a common course of action, and are fully aware of the impacts of their actions. The paper shows that properly crafted BCAs could help reduce trade distortions, limit the competiveness effects, and help build a broader coalition of interests for more global actions.

Suggested Citation

  • Dieter Helm & Cameron Hepburn & Giovanni Ruta, 2012. "Trade, climate change and the political game theory of border carbon adjustments," GRI Working Papers 80, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  • Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp80
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Gago & Xavier Labandeira & Xiral López Otero, 2014. "A Panorama on Energy Taxes and Green Tax Reforms," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 208(1), pages 145-190, March.
    2. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:6:p:1028-:d:101610 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Liu, Liwei & Chen, Chuxiang & Zhao, Yufei & Zhao, Erdong, 2015. "China׳s carbon-emissions trading: Overview, challenges and future," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 254-266.
    4. Jota Ishikawa & Toshihiro Okubo, 2017. "Greenhouse-Gas Emission Controls and Firm Locations in North–South Trade," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 67(4), pages 637-660, August.
    5. Håkon Sælen, 2016. "Side-payments: an effective instrument for building climate clubs?," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(6), pages 909-932, December.
    6. Michael Jakob & Jan Christoph Steckel & Ottmar Edenhofer, 2014. "Consumption- Versus Production-Based Emission Policies," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 297-318, October.
    7. Sheldon, Ian & McCorriston, Steve, 2014. "Climate Policy and Border Measures: The Case of the US Aluminum Industry," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 169544, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. Morihiro Yomogida & Nori Tarui, 2013. "Emission Taxes and Border Tax Adjustments for Oligopolistic Industries," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(5), pages 644-673, December.
    9. Helm, Dieter, 2014. "The European framework for energy and climate policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 29-35.
    10. Fouré, Jean & Guimbard, Houssein & Monjon, Stéphanie, 2016. "Border carbon adjustment and trade retaliation: What would be the cost for the European Union?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 349-362.
    11. Madison Condon & Ada Ignaciuk, 2013. "Border Carbon Adjustment and International Trade: A Literature Review," OECD Trade and Environment Working Papers 2013/6, OECD Publishing.
    12. Jean Fouré & Houssein Guimbard & Stéphanie Monjon, 2013. "Border Carbon Ajustment in Europe and Trade Retaliation: What would be the Cost for European Union?," Working Papers 2013-34, CEPII research center.
    13. Vale, Petterson Molina, 2016. "The changing climate of climate change economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 12-19.
    14. Sakai, Marco & Barrett, John, 2016. "Border carbon adjustments: Addressing emissions embodied in trade," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 102-110.

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