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Reaching a climate agreement: compensating for energy market effects of climate policy

Sonja Peterson () and Matthias Weitzel ()

Climate Policy, 2016, vol. 16, issue 8, 993-1010

Abstract: Because of large economic and environmental asymmetries among world regions and the incentive to free ride, an international climate regime with broad participation is hard to reach. Most of the proposed regimes are based on an allocation of emissions rights that is perceived as fair. Yet, there are also arguments to focus more on the actual welfare implications of different regimes and to focus on a ‘fair’ distribution of resulting costs. In this article, the computable general equilibrium model DART is used to analyse the driving forces of welfare implications in different scenarios in line with the 2 °C target. These include two regimes that are often presumed to be ‘fair’, namely a harmonized international carbon tax and a cap and trade system based on the convergence of per capita emissions rights, and also an ‘equal loss’ scenario where welfare losses relative to a business-as-usual scenario are equal for all major world regions. The main finding is that indirect energy market effects are a major driver of welfare effects and that the ‘equal loss’ scenario would thus require large transfer payments to energy exporters to compensate for welfare losses from lower world energy demand and prices.Policy relevanceA successful future climate regime requires ‘fair’ burden sharing. Many proposed regimes start from ethical considerations to derive an allocation of emissions reduction requirements or emissions allowances within an international emissions trading scheme. Yet, countries also consider the expected economic costs of a regime that are also driven by other factors besides allowance allocation. Indeed, in simplified lab experiments, successful groups are characterized by sharing costs proportional to wealth. This article shows that the major drivers of welfare effects are reduced demand for fossil energy and reduced fossil fuel prices, which implies that (1) what is often presumed to be a fair allocation of emissions allowances within an international emissions trading scheme leads to a very uneven distribution of economic costs and (2) aiming for equal relative losses for all regions requires large compensation to fossil fuel exporters, as argued, for example, by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2015.1064346

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