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What Are the Costs of Meeting Distributional Objectives for Climate Policy?

  • Ian W.H. Parry
  • Roberton C. Williams III

This paper develops an analytical model to quantify the costs and distributional effects of various fiscal options for allocating the (large) rents created under prospective cap-and-trade programs to reduce domestic, energy-related CO2 emissions. The trade-off between cost effectiveness and distribution is striking. The welfare costs of different policies, accounting for linkages with the broader fiscal system, range from negative $6 billion/year to $53 billion/year in 2020, or between minus $12 to almost $100 per ton of CO2 reductions! The least costly policy involves auctioning all allowances with revenues used to cut proportional income taxes, while the most costly policies involve recycling revenues in lump-sum dividends or grandfathering emissions allowances. The least costly policy is regressive, however, while the dividend policy is progressive, and grandfathering permits is both costly and regressive. A distribution-neutral policy entails costs of $18 to $42 per ton of CO2 reductions.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16486.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16486.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Publication status: published as Ian W. H. Parry & Roberton C. Williams III, 2010. "What are the Costs of Meeting Distributional Objectives for Climate Policy?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 10(2), pages 9.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16486
Note: EEE PE
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  1. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 1997. "Environmental Controls, Scarcity Rents, and Pre-Existing Distortions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9703, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  2. Parry, Ian, 2003. "Are Emissions Permits Regressive?," Discussion Papers dp-03-21, Resources For the Future.
  3. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
  4. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  5. Jos Sijm & Karsten Neuhoff & Yihsu Chen, 2006. "CO 2 cost pass-through and windfall profits in the power sector," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 49-72, January.
  6. Pizer, William A., 2002. "Combining price and quantity controls to mitigate global climate change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(3), pages 409-434, September.
  7. Joseph E. Aldy & Alan J. Krupnick & Richard G. Newell & Ian W. H. Parry & William A. Pizer, 2010. "Designing Climate Mitigation Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 903-34, December.
  8. Kevin A. Hassett & Aparna Mathur & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2009. "The Incidence of a U.S. Carbon Tax: A Lifetime and Regional Analysis," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 155-178.
  9. Parry, Ian W. H. & Bento, Antonio M., 2000. "Tax Deductions, Environmental Policy, and the "Double Dividend" Hypothesis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 67-96, January.
  10. Corbett A. Grainger & Charles D. Kolstad, 2009. "Who Pays a Price on Carbon?," NBER Working Papers 15239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Emmanuel Saez & Joel Slemrod & Seth H. Giertz, 2012. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income with Respect to Marginal Tax Rates: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 3-50, March.
  12. Burtraw, Dallas & Sweeney, Richard & Walls, Margaret, 2009. "The Incidence of U.S. Climate Policy: Alternative Uses of Revenues from a Cap-and-Trade Auction," Discussion Papers dp-09-17-rev, Resources For the Future.
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