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The joint impact of the European Union emissions trading system on carbon emissions and economic performance


  • Antoine Dechezleprêtre
  • Daniel Nachtigall
  • Frank Venmans


This paper investigates the joint impact of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), Europe’s main climate change policy, on carbon emissions and economic performance of regulated companies. The impact on emissions is analysed using installation-level carbon emissions from national Polluting Emissions Registries from France, Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom complemented with data from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). The impact on firm performance is analysed using firm-level data for all countries covered by the EU ETS. A matching methodology exploiting installation-level inclusion criteria combined with difference-in-differences is used to estimate the policy’s causal impact on installations’ emissions and on firms’ revenue, assets, profits and employment. We find that the EU ETS has induced carbon emission reductions in the order of -10% between 2005 and 2012, but had no negative impact on the economic performance of regulated firms. These results demonstrate that concerns that the EU ETS would come at a cost in terms of competitiveness have been vastly overplayed. In fact, we even find that the EU ETS led to an increase in regulated firms’ revenues and fixed assets. We explore various explanations for these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Antoine Dechezleprêtre & Daniel Nachtigall & Frank Venmans, 2018. "The joint impact of the European Union emissions trading system on carbon emissions and economic performance," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1515, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1515-en
    DOI: 10.1787/4819b016-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Dechezleprêtre, Antoine & Kozluk, Tomasz & Kruse, Tobias & Nachtigall, Daniel & de Serres, Alain, 2019. "Do Environmental and Economic Performance Go Together? A Review of Micro-level Empirical Evidence from the Past Decade or So," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 13(1-2), pages 1-118, April.
    2. Marit Klemetsen & Knut Einar Rosendahl & Anja Lund Jakobsen, 2020. "The Impacts Of The Eu Ets On Norwegian Plants’ Environmental And Economic Performance," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 11(01), pages 1-32, February.
    3. Jonathan Colmer & Ralf Martin & Mirabelle Muûls & Ulrich J. Wagner, 2020. "Does pricing carbon mitigate climate change? Firm-level evidence from the European Union emissions trading scheme," CEP Discussion Papers dp1728, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Reyer Gerlagh & Roweno J. R. K. Heijmans & Knut Einar Rosendahl, 2020. "COVID-19 Tests the Market Stability Reserve," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 855-865, August.
    5. Rafaty, R. & Dolphin, G. & Pretis, F., 2020. "Carbon pricing and the elasticity of CO2 emissions," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 20116, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    6. Herman R. J. Vollebergh & Corjan Brink, 2020. "What Can We Learn from EU ETS?," CESifo Working Paper Series 8236, CESifo.
    7. Joseph S. Shapiro, 2020. "The Environmental Bias of Trade Policy," NBER Working Papers 26845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Andersson, Malin & Baccianti, Claudio & Morgan, Julian, 2020. "Climate change and the macro economy," Occasional Paper Series 243, European Central Bank.
    9. Siedschlag, Iulia & Yan, Weijie, 2020. "What drives firms’ decisions to spend on environmental protection," Papers WP670, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    10. Svetlana V. Doroshenko & Anna D. Mingaleva, 2020. "Carbon Exchanges: European Experience in Developing the Mechanism of Emission Permit Trading," Finansovyj žhurnal — Financial Journal, Financial Research Institute, Moscow 127006, Russia, issue 4, pages 52-68, August.

    More about this item


    carbon emissions reductions; competitiveness; EU Emissions Trading System; firm performance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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