China's Unconventional Nationwide CO2 Emissions Trading System: Cost-Effectiveness and Distributional impacts
RFF researchers and other scholars evaluate the cost-effectiveness and distributional impacts of China's tradable performance standard for power sector CO2 emissions reductions.
China is implementing what is expected to become the world's largest CO2 emissions trading system. To reduce emissions, the nation employs a tradable performance standard (TPS), a rate-based instrument differing significantly from cap&trade (C&T) and a carbon tax, emissions pricing instruments used elsewhere. With matching analytically and numerically solved models, we assess the cost-effectiveness and distributional impacts of China's TPS for reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector.
The TPS implicitly subsidizes electricity output, which limits the use of output-reduction as a channel for reducing emissions. It also gives power plants with especially low emissions-output ratios incentives to expand output relative to business-as-usual levels. These features compromise the TPS's cost-effectiveness relative to C&T. The use of differing benchmarks (emissions-intensity standards) also compromises cost-effectiveness by distorting relative production levels and by lowering the cost-reducing potential of allowance trading. In our central case simulations, the TPS's overall costs are about 34 percent higher than those of C&T.
Although the use of non-uniform benchmarks compromises cost-effectiveness, it can help serve regional distributional objectives. We assess the aggregate costs of customizing benchmarks in order to reduce the adverse profit impacts in provinces that otherwise would suffer a disproportionate cost from the TPS.
Lawrence H. Goulder
Lawrence H. Goulder is a a university fellow at RFF, whose research covers a range of environmental issues, including green tax reform, the design of cap-and-trade systems, climate change policy, and comprehensive wealth measurement.
National School of Development
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