The Allocation of Carbon Permits within One Country : A General Equilibrium Analysis of the United Kingdom
As part of the Kyoto agreement on limiting carbon emissions, from 2008 onwards an international market in auction able carbon permits will be established. This raises the issue of whether trading should be simply between governments or between companies, or in the latter case how such permits should be allocated. Our paper uses the British section of a CGE model of the European energy sectors to evaluate the economics of various methods of allocating permits within a country, as discussed in Lord Marshall’s recent report to the British government. The option of allocation entirely by auction is similar to the setting of a carbon tax, and the recycling of revenues to reduce or offset other economic distortions could produce a potential net benefit to incomes and employment. 'Grandfathering' some of the permits free to large firms, according to their base year carbon emissions, would mean loss of the benefits of recycling auction revenues. This might be exacerbated if it created windfall profits repatriated by foreign shareholders. The third major alternative is to review the allocation regularly, awarding permits to all firms according to a ‘benchmark’ allocation, based on 'best practice' as estimated by outside experts. This would be similar in practice to recycling the revenue as an output subsidy to the industry, though it could be complicated to implement. Such a system could allow much of the potential ‘double dividend’ to be realized, though it might still be preferable to auction permits, with the revenues used to offset taxes across a wider spread of industry
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