…environmental economics and the implications of environmental policy

Archive for the ‘Instrument Choice’ Category

A One Oared Climate Policy: “So, what about the rest of the emitters?”

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Andrew Leach , an environmental economist out of U of A, has good article in the Edmonton Journal today on an issue that one can’t help but see in the media: a contradiction in Canada’s domestic and international climate policies. His point is simply that while Canada is calling for binding targets for all emitters internationally, only the large emitters domestically face a real incentive to take action. The rest of us are offered subsidies, that we may or may not respond to, and some sporadic technology standards, that may or may not touch our emissions.

Instead, we need a more comprehensive climate policy. Ideally, this would include a domestic carbon tax for the sectors not covered by the cap and trade for large emitters – that includes you, me, our buildings and cars. Practically, this implies a cap and trade and an emission tax implemented concurrently so that a price signal is seen and hopefully felt by all. These two price signals should form the basis of our climate policy, but would not get the job totally done, and thus other regulatory standards, say for vehicles and buildings will be required, as well a projects on CCS and subsides for innovation.

If we are really serious about carbon and want to minimize cost, we need a broad-based carbon tax to complement the proposed trading regime. Without it, we will continue to have one oar in the water. Rowing in circles is a bit of a rush and can be fun, but mostly it gets tiresome.

Written by Dave Sawyer

December 18th, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Some are “Not Impressed by Quebec’s Emisison Rules”, But I am.

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On instrument choice, there has been a long-standing view of alternatives as substitutes. You either tax, trade or regulate a standard, or stage instruments in time say by taxing first to get movement in advance of a technology standard. This view is not surprising given much of the early environmental economics literature focused on the benefits of say trading over regulations and technology standards. But this has changed as the theorists have prodded and probed their analytical models and concluded that indeed there is a blurring of the lines, and that often, design elements can be merged to produce some sort of uber instrument. While theory says one thing, we can expect a lag in policy adoption as the policy wonks catch up. But in Quebec, somebody is paying attention:

Quebec Environment Minister Line Beauchamp announced Wednesday that her government has approved regulations to make the province the first in Canada to enforce the tougher emissions standards in cars, starting in 2010. The regulations require manufacturers to improve by 30 per cent the average emissions from their entire fleet of new cars by 2017…..Under Quebec’s plan, automakers would be forced to pay fines into the government’s green fund if they don’t meet their targets, while those that exceed the standard would be able to sell carbon credits to other companies.

What is astonishing about this is that we have elements of trading and taxes concurrently supporting a stringent regulatory standard in Canada. The monetary fines are a safety value that acts like a tax to recycle revenue and improve environmental performance, the trading provides cost-effective compliance through equalizing the marginal costs of producers and an on-going incentive through continuous improvement and the standard, well it is a North American first. And recall, Quebec has a carbon tax that is visible at the pump. Quebec through this “mixing and matching” of instruments seems to have technology change and consumer behaviour in transportation sector cornered. It’s all enough to make an environmental economist swoon.

Written by Dave Sawyer

December 14th, 2007 at 3:17 pm