Augmenting Forest Sustainability Certificates with Fiscal Instruments
Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics (RILE) Working Paper Series No. 2015/7
35 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2015 Last revised: 14 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 13, 2017
Several countries with large end-consumer markets for timber have the declared objective of supporting forest sustainability around the globe, but the world’s most important forests are, in fact, outside their jurisdictions. Actions to protect these forests are therefore constrained by the legal problem of extraterritoriality. To legally act outside their borders, these countries support voluntary certificates on production practices and price-based instruments, but, unfortunately, neither instrument reaches beyond niche market shares, administration and compliance costs are high, the environmental gains are variable, and the two types of instruments work alongside each other without much synergies.
In this paper, we use a Law and Economics methodology to design a mechanism that integrates forestry certificates with price-based instruments, in a way that exploits synergies, and provides dynamic incentives for sustainable use of forests while keeping down the costs of compliance and administration. It is a mechanism that satisfies legal extraterritoriality constraints while nevertheless allowing countries to act outside their borders.
The mechanism consists of a tax imposed by a timber-importing country on a default assumption regarding the sustainability of the timber, combined with a tax discount that is provided on proof that the sustainability was higher than assumed. The proof is established by showing a sustainability certificate to the customs authority when the timber is imported.
This Feebate mechanism reduces standard problems in the literatures on certification and taxation of overseas forestry, such as the problems of threshold costs, free-riding and consumer recognition in markets with competing sustainability certificates, and the problem to compute efficient Pigouvian tax rates in a sector plagued by data unavailability. We show that a combination of price-based instruments with certificates can lead to better incentives for sustainable timber production than each of the instruments alone, without infringing the sovereignty of forest nations in an extraterritorial manner.
Keywords: Forestry, extraterritoriality, feebates, sustainability certificates, Pigou
JEL Classification: K32, K34, Q23, Q27
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation