Kalkuhl, M., Steckel, J., Edenhofer, O.

All or nothing: Climate policy when assets can become stranded

in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 06.02.2019

Peer Review , Economic Growth and Human Development , Directorate , Climate and Development

This paper develops a new perspective on stranded assets in climate policy using a partial equilibrium model of the energy sector. Political-economy related aspects are considered in the government's objective function. Lobbying power of firms or fiscal considerations by the government lead to time inconsistency: The government will deviate from a previously announced carbon tax which creates stranded assets. Under rational expectations, we show that a time-consistent policy outcome exists with either a zero carbon tax or a prohibitive carbon tax that leads to zero fossil investments – an “all-or-nothing” policy. Although stranded assets are crucial to such a bipolar outcome, they disappear again under time-consistent policy. Which of the two outcomes (all or nothing) prevails depends on the lobbying power of owners of fixed factors (land and fossil resources) but not on fiscal revenue considerations or on the lobbying power of renewable or fossil energy firms.