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Optimal Environmental Targeting in the Amazon Rainforest

Author

Listed:
  • Juliano Assuncao
  • Robert McMillan
  • Joshua Murphy
  • Eduardo Souza-Rodrigues

Abstract

This paper sets out an empirically-driven approach for targeting environmental policies optimally in order to combat deforestation. We focus on the Amazon, the world’s most extensive rainforest, where Brazil’s federal government issued a ‘Priority List’ of municipalities in 2008, to be targeted with more intense environmental monitoring and enforcement. In this setting, we first estimate the causal impact of the Priority List on deforestation using ‘changes-in-changes’ (Athey and Imbens, 2006), a flexible treatment effects estimation method, finding that it reduced deforestation by 40 percent and cut emissions by 39.5 million tons of carbon. Second, we develop a novel framework for computing targeted ex-post optimal blacklists. This involves a procedure for assigning municipalities to a counterfactual list that minimizes total deforestation subject to realistic resource constraints, drawing on the ex-post treatment effect estimates from the first part of the analysis. Accounting for spillovers, we show that the ex-post optimal list resulted in carbon emissions over 7.4 percent lower than the actual list, amounting to savings of more than $900 million, and emissions over 25 percent lower (on average) than a randomly selected list. The approach we propose is relevant for assessing both targeted counterfactual policies to reduce deforestation and quantifying the impacts of policy targeting more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Juliano Assuncao & Robert McMillan & Joshua Murphy & Eduardo Souza-Rodrigues, 2019. "Optimal Environmental Targeting in the Amazon Rainforest," Working Papers tecipa-631, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-631
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Policy Targeting; Optimal Regulation; Monitoring; Deforestation; Amazon; Carbon Emissions; Changes-in-Changes; Difference-in-Differences; Spillovers; Resource Constraints; Partial Identification; Minimax Ambiguity;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • L73 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Forest Products
    • L78 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Government Policy
    • Q23 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Forestry
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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