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Using Emissions Trading to Regulate U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Overview of Policy Design and Implementation Issues

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  • Fischer, Carolyn

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • Toman, Michael
  • Kerr, Suzi

Abstract

In Kyoto in 1997, the US government agreed that between 2008 and 2012 it would limit average annual emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to seven percent below 1990 levels. As participants in the climate policy debate consider various means by which limits on US GHG emissions might be undertaken in the wake of the Kyoto agreement, there is considerable interest but also some confusion about how a GHG trading program could be organized and operated in practice. In this paper we address several aspects of policy design for a US system, such as who and what is covered by regulation, the organization of the trading system, how carbon permits are allocated, and how a system could be initiated and changed over time. The paper synthesizes existing analyses and adds new insights concerning uncertainty, intertemporal consistency, market institutions, and interactions with the tax system. Our fundamental conclusion is that a domestic "cap-and-trade" system with homogeneous permits applied to control flows of fossil fuels "upstream" in the energy system (along with selective inclusion of other gases and CO2 "sinks"), with permits auctioned periodically by the government, has the most appeal of different trading systems on efficiency and distributional grounds, though it may suffer politically because of its close resemblance to a carbon tax. We identify auction mechanisms that appear to be feasible and efficient for carbon permit allocation. We further argue that while the private sector should bear the "external" risk of changes in total permit availability as a consequence of modifications in international agreements, and that an auctioned upstream program provides more protection against the "internal" risk of efficiency-reducing opportunism by government regulators than other trading mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Fischer, Carolyn & Toman, Michael & Kerr, Suzi, 1998. "Using Emissions Trading to Regulate U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Overview of Policy Design and Implementation Issues," Discussion Papers dp-98-40, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-98-40
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cramton, Peter & Kerr, Suzi, 2002. "Tradeable carbon permit auctions: How and why to auction not grandfather," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 333-345, March.
    2. James Boyce & Matthew Riddle & Mark D. Brenner, 2005. "A Chinese Sky Trust? Distributional Impacts of Carbon charges and Revenue Recycling in China," Working Papers wp_brenner_riddle_boyce, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    3. Brenner, Mark & Riddle, Matthew & Boyce, James K., 2007. "A Chinese sky trust?: Distributional impacts of carbon charges and revenue recycling in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1771-1784, March.
    4. James Kroes & Ravi Subramanian & Ramanath Subramanyam, 2012. "Operational Compliance Levers, Environmental Performance, and Firm Performance Under Cap and Trade Regulation," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 14(2), pages 186-201, April.
    5. Fankhauser, Samuel & Hepburn, Cameron, 2010. "Designing carbon markets, Part II: Carbon markets in space," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4381-4387, August.
    6. Wojciech Kopczuk & Justin Marion & Erich Muehlegger & Joel Slemrod, 2013. "Do the Laws of Tax Incidence Hold? Point of Collection and the Pass-through of State Diesel Taxes," NBER Working Papers 19410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Ian W.H. Parry & Michael Toman, 2002. "Early Emission Reduction Programs: An Application to CO2 Policy," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 73-95.
    8. DAUBANES Julien, 2009. "Changement climatique, instruments économiques et propositions pour un accord post-Kyoto : une synthèse," LERNA Working Papers 09.19.295, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    9. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 1999. "The design and implementation of an international greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme," MPRA Paper 13046, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Suzi Kerr & Vicki Duscha, 2014. "Going to the Source: Using an Upstream Point of Regulation for Energy in a National Chinese Emissions Trading System," Energy & Environment, , vol. 25(3-4), pages 593-611, April.
    11. Ethan Yale, 2008. "Taxing Cap-and-Trade Environmental Regulation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(2), pages 535-550, June.
    12. Stavins, Robert & Hahn, Robert, 1999. "What Has Kyoto Wrought? The Real Architecture of International Tradable Permit Markets," Discussion Papers dp-99-30, Resources For the Future.
    13. Kolstad, Charles D. & Toman, Michael, 2005. "The Economics of Climate Policy," Handbook of Environmental Economics,in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1561-1618 Elsevier.
    14. Zhang, ZhongXiang, 1998. "Towards a successful international greenhouse gas emissions trading," MPRA Paper 13023, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Fischer, Carolyn & Hoffmann, Sandra & Yoshino , Yutaka, 2002. "Multilateral Trade Agreements and Market-Based Environmental Policies," Discussion Papers dp-02-28, Resources For the Future.
    16. Zeuli, Kimberly A. & Skees, Jerry R., 2000. "Will Southern Agriculture Play A Role In A Carbon Market?," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 1-14, August.
    17. Kolstad, Charles D. & Toman, Michael, 2001. "The Economics of Climate Policy," Discussion Papers 10783, Resources for the Future.
    18. Pezzey, John C.V., 2001. "Distributing the Value of a Country’s Tradeable Carbon Permits," 2001 Conference (45th), January 23-25, 2001, Adelaide, Australia 125832, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    19. Matthew Riddle & James Boyce, 2007. "Cap and Dividend: How to Curb Global Warming while Protecting the Incomes of American Families," Working Papers wp150, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    20. repec:eco:journ2:2017-02-23 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Parry, Ian W.H. & Toman, Michael, 2000. "Early Emissions Reduction Programs: An Application to CO2 Policy," Discussion Papers 10791, Resources for the Future.
    22. Neuhoff, K. & Grubb, M. & Keats, K., 2005. "Impact of the allowance allocation on prices and efficiency," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0552, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    23. Xianbing Liu & Sunhee Suk & Kinichi Sudo, 2012. "GHG emissions trading schemes in Northeast Asia: an overview and analysis of current scenarios," Chapters,in: Carbon Pricing, Growth and the Environment, chapter 10, pages 149-166 Edward Elgar Publishing.

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