Discussion Paper

Auction Mechanisms for Allocating Subsidies for Carbon Emissions Reduction: An Experimental Investigation

Apr 18, 2014 | Haoran He, Yefeng Chen

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .


One method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to subsidize emissions-reducing activities. The question is how to allocate such subsidies. Allocation through auctions is an emerging mechanism. In a controlled experimental market setting, we compare the effects of a variety of auction mechanisms for allocating subsidies for carbon emissions reduction in China. Besides the conventional auction mechanisms, we place particular focus on testing the actual performance of the auction mechanism proposed by Erik Maskin (2011). We find that, while the Maskin auction mechanism spends the most from a fixed subsidy budget and leads to the largest emissions reduction, its per-unit emissions reduction cost is higher than that of discriminatory and uniform-price auction mechanisms. Both the Maskin and uniform-price auctions outperform discriminatory auctions in price discovery. Furthermore, from the government’s perspective, the Maskin auctions exhibit the strongest improvement tendency with repeated auctions.