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China's Unconventional Nationwide CO2 Emissions Trading System: The Wide-Ranging Impacts of an Implicit Output Subsidy

Lawrence H. Goulder, Xianling Long, Jieyi Lu, Richard D. Morgenstern

NBER Working Paper No. 26537
Issued in December 2019
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics, Public Economics

China is planning to implement the largest CO2 emissions trading system in the world. To reduce emissions, the system will be a tradable performance standard (TPS), an emissions pricing mechanism that differs significantly from the emissions pricing instruments used in other countries, such as cap and trade (C&T) and a carbon tax. We employ matching analytically and numerically solved models to assess the cost-effectiveness and distributional impacts of China’s forthcoming TPS for achieving CO2 emissions reductions from the power sector.

We find that the TPS’s implicit subsidy to electricity output has wide-ranging consequences for both cost-effectiveness and distribution. In terms of cost-effectiveness, the subsidy disadvantages the TPS relative to C&T by causing power plants to make less efficient use of output-reduction as a way of reducing emissions (indeed, it induces some generators to increase output) and by limiting the cost-reducing potential of allowance trading. In our central case simulations, TPS’s overall costs are about 47 percent higher than under C&T. At the same time, the TPS has distribution-related attractions. Through the use of multiple benchmarks (maximal emission-output ratios consistent with compliance), it can serve distributional objectives. And because it yields smaller increases in electricity prices than a comparable C&T system, it implies less international emissions leakage.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26537

 
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