Working papers

Significant Benefits from International Cooperation over Marine Plastic Pollution

Joint with Nicola Beaumont, Tobias Börger, James Clark, Nick Hanley, Robert Johnston, Keila Meginnis & Chris Stapenhurst
| preprint on Research Square

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans threatens marine ecosystems and biodiversity, leading to a loss of well-being for people. The connected nature of the marine environment suggests that coordinated actions by countries sharing a common ocean border may provide more effective pollution control than unilateral actions by any one country. However, economic theory and empirical evidence suggest that countries often fail to cooperate, even when joint welfare would be higher under cooperation. Here we provide the first analysis of the potential economic benefits of cooperative marine plastic pollution (MPP) management in the North Atlantic. An estimated transfer matrix showing how plastics move across the North Atlantic is combined with game theory and estimates of benefits and costs to derive the potential net benefits of international cooperation. A fully cooperative outcome across 16 countries leads to a substantial reduction in MPP, resulting in significant aggregate annual net benefits. However, MPP reduction burdens are unevenly spread across countries. Constraining the agreement to avoid such consequences results in both less MPP reduction and lower aggregate benefits. As the United Nations works on a future global plastic pollution treaty, these results demonstrate that close cooperation will be a critical determinant of its success.

Clear Skies: Multi-Pollutant Climate Policy in the Presence of Global Dimming

Joint with Matthew McGinty        | pdf

Multi-pollutant interactions can have crucial implications for the design and performance of environmental policy targeting single pollutants. This paper presents a two-region model where a global  pollutant (CO2) and local pollutant (SO2) are produced jointly. The interaction between SO2 and CO2 gives rise to the global dimming effect, which relates SO2 emissions to the environmental damage caused by CO2 emissions. We analyze climate policy by comparing abatement of these pollutants in the presence and absence of the dimming effect. We then draw implications for the design of international climate agreements, which should reflect the interactive nature between pollutants. The paper also illustrates how a market-based policy in the form of emissions taxes can be embedded into climate agreements to facilitate an efficient coordination of multi-pollutant abatement across regions. Our model predicts that this involves a uniform tax on the global pollutant but differentiated (region-specific) taxes on the local pollutant.

Innovation and Environmental Stringency: The Case of Sulfur Dioxide Abatement

Joint with Cees Withagen        | link to paper on SSRN

A weak version of the Porter hypothesis claims that strict environmental policy provides positive innovation incentives, hence triggering improved competitiveness and securing environmental quality. In a comparative way, this paper empirically tests this hypothesis across countries by linking environmental stringency to innovation proxied by patents in the field of SO2 abatement over the period 1970-2000. Three different models of environmental stringency are examined. Two of these models do not reveal a positive significant effect on innovation as a result of increased stringency. In the theoretically preferred model, however, a positive relationship between environmental stringency and innovation is obtained.