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What is the Optimal Offsets Discount under a Second-Best Cap & Trade Policy?

  • Heather Klemick

Despite concerns about additionality, leakage, permanence, and verification, carbon offsets have been proposed as a core component of recent cap-and-trade proposals in order to contain costs, involve uncapped sectors in GHG reduction goals, and build mitigation capacity in developing countries. Discounting the value of offsets relative to GHG allowances (i.e., setting a trading ratio less than one) has been suggested as one approach to protect the integrity of the cap. This paper presents a simple theoretical model to derive the optimal trading ratio between offsets and allowances when coverage of emissions by the cap-and-trade and offsets programs is incomplete. I discuss the relationship between the trading ratio and the GHG cap and offsets baseline, which jointly determine the stringency of the policy. While a discount for leakage is always optimal, one notable result is that if “hot air” is introduced by setting either the baseline cap or the cap too leniently, an extra discount is warranted.

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File URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/WPNumber/2012-04/$File/2012-04.PDF
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Paper provided by National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its series NCEE Working Paper Series with number 201204.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision: Jul 2012
Handle: RePEc:nev:wpaper:wp201204
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  1. James B. Bushnell, 2010. "The Economics of Carbon Offsets," NBER Working Papers 16305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Marshall, Liz & Kelly, Alexia, 2010. "The Time Value of Carbon and Carbon Storage: Clarifying the terms and the policy implications of the debate," MPRA Paper 27326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Joseph E. Aldy & William A. Pizer, 2011. "The Competitiveness Impacts of Climate Change Mitigation Policies," NBER Working Papers 17705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. N. Wear, David & Murray, Brian C., 2004. "Federal timber restrictions, interregional spillovers, and the impact on US softwood markets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 307-330, March.
  5. Fell, Harrison & Burtraw, Dallas & Morgenstern, Richard & Palmer, Karen, 2011. "Climate Policy Design with Correlated Uncertainties in Offset Supply and Abatement Cost," Discussion Papers dp-10-01-rev, Resources For the Future.
  6. Montero, Juan-Pablo, 2000. "Optimal design of a phase-in emissions trading program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 273-291, February.
  7. Juan-Pablo Montero, 1999. "Voluntary Compliance with Market-Based Environmental Policy: Evidence from the U.S. Acid Rain Program," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(5), pages 998-1033, October.
  8. Shortle, James S., 1987. "Allocative Implications Of Comparisons Between The Marginal Costs Of Point And Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement," Northeastern Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 16(1), April.
  9. Brian C. Murray & Bruce A. McCarl & Heng-Chi Lee, 2004. "Estimating Leakage from Forest Carbon Sequestration Programs," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 80(1), pages 109-124.
  10. Gan, Jianbang & McCarl, Bruce A., 2007. "Measuring transnational leakage of forest conservation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 423-432, December.
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