Abstract An implication of the Coase theorem is that under certain conditions, the market equilibrium in a cap-and-trade system will be cost-effective and independent of the initial allocation of tradable rights. That is, the overall cost of achieving a given aggregate emission reduction will be minimized, and the final allocation of permits will be independent of the initial allocation. We call this the independence property. This property is important because it means that the government can establish the overall pollution reduction goal for a cap-and-trade system by setting the cap and leaving it up to the legislature to construct a constituency in support of the program by allocating the allowances to various interests without affecting either the environmental performance of the system or its aggregate social costs. We examine the conditions under which the independence property is likely to hold—both in theory and in practice.
Those who believe that renewable electricity standards would create a huge number of green jobs have forgotten the lesson of Detroit: a large domestic market does not guarantee a healthy domestic industry.
The climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, didn’t solve all the world’s climate problems. But they were hugely successful. Through the Cancun Agreements, 194 countries reached landmark consensus (even the US and China) to set emissions targets and limit global temperature increases.
Are cap-and-trade schemes working? This column presents a summary of eight existing schemes arguing that half meet the independence property whereby the initial allocation of property rights does not affect the environmental or social outcome and the scheme is cost-effective. This success is a contrast with other policy proposals where political bargaining reduces the effectiveness and drives up cost.
We examine the concept of firms sacrificing profits in the social interest within the environmental realm, with particular focus on the case of the United States by addressing four key questions. May they do so within the scope of their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders? Can they do so on a sustainable basis, or will the forces of a competitive marketplace render such efforts and their impacts transient at best? Do firms, in fact, frequently or at least sometimes behave this way, reducing their earnings by voluntarily engaging in environmental stewardship? Should firms carry out such profit-sacrificing activities (i.e. is this an efficient use of social resources)? We address these questions through the lens of economics, including insights from legal and business scholarship.