Hänsel, M.C., Franks, M., Kalkuhl, M., Edenhofer, O.

Optimal carbon taxation and horizontal equity: A welfare-theoretic approach with application to German household data

in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 09.09.2022

Peer Review , Directorate , Economic Growth and Human Development

We develop a model of optimal taxation and redistribution under an ambitious climate target. We take into account vertical income differences, but also explicitly capture horizontal equity concerns by considering heterogeneous energy efficiencies. By deriving first- and second-best rules for policy instruments including carbon and labor taxes, transfers and energy subsidies, we investigate analytically how vertical and horizontal inequality is considered in the welfare maximizing tax structure. We calibrate the model to German household data and a 30 percent emission reduction goal and show that redistribution of carbon tax revenues via household-specific transfers is the first-best policy. Under plausible assumptions on inequality aversion, transfers to energy-intensive households should be about five times higher than transfers to energy-efficient households. Equal per-capita transfers do not require to observe households’ efficiency type, but increase mitigation costs by around 5 percent compared to the first-best. Mitigation costs increase by less, if the government can implement a uniform clean energy subsidy or household-specific tax-subsidy schemes on energy consumption and labor income that target heterogeneous energy efficiencies. Horizontal equity concerns may therefore constitute a new second-best rationale for clean energy policies or differentiated energy taxes.