Robert StavinsRobert N. Stavins is the A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy & Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Director of Graduate Studies for the Doctoral Program in Public Policy and the Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government, Co-Chair of the Harvard Business School-Kennedy School Joint Degree Programs, and Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.

Tel: 617-495-1820
Office: Littauer 306
Assistant: Jason Chapman
Tel: 617-496-8054
Mailing Address:
Robert N. Stavins
Harvard Kennedy School, Mailbox #11
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138


Stavins, Robert N."The Relative Merits of Carbon Pricing Instruments: Taxes versus Trading".” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 16, no. 1 (2022): 1-21. Publisher's VersionAbstract
There is widespread agreement among most economists that economy-wide carbon pricing will be a necessary (although not necessarily sufficient) component of any policy that can achieve meaningful and cost-effective CO2 reductions in large, complex economies. But there is less agreement about which of two carbon pricing instruments will be better. Some support carbon taxes, while others favor cap-and-trade. How do these two pricing approaches compare? In this survey and synthesis of theory and experience, I show that when carbon taxes and carbon cap-and-trade systems are designed in ways that make them truly comparable, their characteristics and outcomes are similar and, in some respects, fully equivalent. But the two approaches can perform quite differently along some specific dimensions, sometimes favoring taxes and sometimes cap-and-trade. The key differences in performance depend on details of program design. Indeed, what appears at first glance to be a dichotomous choice between two distinct instruments can turn out to be a choice of specific design elements along a policy continuum.

My Blog: An Economic View of the Environment

Environmental Insights Podcast

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Roles and Responsibilities

A. J. Meyer Professor of Energy & Economic Development, Harvard Kennedy School

Director, Harvard Environmental Economics Program

Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

Director of Graduate Studies for Ph.D. in Public Policy, and Political Economy & Government

Co-Chair, HKS/HBS Joint Degree Program

Faculty Chair, Exec Ed Course Climate Change & Energy: Policy Making for the Long Term

University Fellow, Resources for the Future

Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research

Co-Editor, The Journal of Wine Economics

Conversations on Climate Change and Energy Policy

The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements is conducting a series of virtual forums addressing key issues in climate-change and related energy policy. Each forum will feature an expert guest and will be moderated by Robert Stavins, Director of the Harvard Project, or another Harvard faculty member. We hope you can join us!

Next Scheduled Event:


To access recordings and transcripts of past events, please go to the HPCA Conversations Series webpage.