Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets

Matthew J. Kotchen

NBER Working Paper No. 13643
Issued in November 2007
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics, Public Economics

This paper examines voluntary provision of a public good that is motivated, in part, to compensate for other activities that diminish the public good. Markets for environmental offsets, such as those that promote carbon neutrality to minimize the impact of climate change, provide an increasingly salient example. An important result, related to one shown previously, is that mean donations to the public good do not converge to zero as the economy grows large. Other results are new and comparable to those from the standard model of a privately provided public good. The Nash equilibrium is solved explicitly to show how individual direct donations and net contributions depend on wealth and heterogenous preferences. Comparative static analysis demonstrates how the level of the public good and social welfare depend on the technology, individual wealth, and an initial level of the public good. Application of the model in an environmental context establishes a starting point for understanding and making predictions about markets such as those for carbon offsets.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13643

Published: Matthew J. Kotchen, 2009. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods for Bads: A Theory of Environmental Offsets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(537), pages 883-899, 04. citation courtesy of

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