Setting the Initial Time-Profile of Climate Policy: The Economics of Environmental Policy Phase-Ins

15 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2010 Last revised: 23 Jul 2010

See all articles by Roberton C. Williams

Roberton C. Williams

University of Maryland - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Resources for the Future

Date Written: June 2010

Abstract

This paper considers the question of under what circumstances a new environmental regulation should "phase in" gradually over time, rather than being immediately implemented at full force. The paper focuses particularly on climate policy, though its insights are more general. It shows that while adjustment costs provide a strong efficiency argument for phasing in a quantity-based regulation (or allowing intertemporal flexibility that creates the equivalent of a phase-in), this argument does not apply for price-based regulation. Indeed, in many cases, it will be more efficient to do just the opposite, setting an initially very high emissions price that then falls as the policy phases in. This difference in results comes not from any fundamental difference between price and quantity policies: under either policy, the efficient quantity of abatement rises over time, while the efficient price stays constant or even falls. But other considerations, such as distributional concerns or monitoring and enforcement issues, may still argue for a gradual phase-in even for a price-based policy.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Roberton C., Setting the Initial Time-Profile of Climate Policy: The Economics of Environmental Policy Phase-Ins (June 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16120, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1630125

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