Transition to Clean Capital, Irreversible Investment and Stranded Assets
29 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: May 1, 2014
This paper uses a Ramsey model with two types of capital to analyze the optimal transition to clean capital when polluting investment is irreversible. The cost of climate mitigation decomposes as a technical cost of using clean instead of polluting capital and a transition cost from the irreversibility of pre-existing polluting capital. With a carbon price, the transition cost can be limited by underutilizing polluting capital, at the expense of a loss in the value of polluting assets (stranded assets) and a drop in income. In contrast, policy instruments that focus on redirecting investments -- such as feebates or environmental standards -- prevent underutilization of existing capital, avoid stranded assets, and reduce short-term losses; but they reduce emissions more slowly and increase the intertemporal cost of the transition. The paper investigates inter- and intra-generational distributional impacts and the political acceptability of climate change mitigation policy instruments.
Keywords: Political Economy, Climate Change Mitigation and Green House Gases, Climate Change Economics, Economic Theory & Research, Investment and Investment Climate
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