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Optimal Climate Change Policies When Governments Cannot Commit

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  • Alistair Ulph
  • David Ulph

Abstract

We analyse the optimal design of climate change policies when a government wants to encourage the private sector to undertake significant immediate investment in developing cleaner technologies, but the relevant carbon taxes (or other environmental policies) that would incentivise such investment by firms will be set in the future. We assume that the current government cannot commit to long-term carbon taxes, and so both it and the private sector face the possibility that the government in power in the future may give different (relative) weight to environmental damage costs. We show that this lack of commitment has a significant asymmetric effect: it increases the incentive of the current government to have the investment undertaken, but reduces the incentive of the private sector to invest. Consequently the current government may need to use additional policy instruments – such as R&D subsidies – to stimulate the required investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Alistair Ulph & David Ulph, 2011. "Optimal Climate Change Policies When Governments Cannot Commit," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201104, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  • Handle: RePEc:san:wpecon:1104
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    File URL: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~wwwecon/papers/dp1104.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dieter Helm & Cameron Hepburn & Richard Mash, 2003. "Credible Carbon Policy," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(3), pages 438-450.
    2. Stavins, Robert & Jaffe, Adam & Newell, Richard, 2000. "Technological Change and the Environment," Working Paper Series rwp00-002, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Lisandro Abrego & Carlo Perroni, 2002. "Investment subsidies and Time-Consistent Environmental Policy," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(4), pages 617-635, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hoel, Michael, 2012. "Second-best Climate Policy," Memorandum 04/2012, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    2. Alistair Ulph & David Ulph, 2013. "Optimal Climate Change Policies When Governments Cannot Commit," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 56(2), pages 161-176, October.
    3. Haradhan Kumar Mohajan, 2011. "Optimal Environmental Taxes Due to Health Effect," KASBIT Business Journals, Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Institute of Technology (KASBIT), vol. 4, pages 1-19, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate Change; Emissions Taxes; Impact on R&D; Timing and Commitment;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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