Coal taxes as supply-side climate policy: a rationale for major exporters?
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The shift away from coal is at the heart of the global low-carbon transition. Can governments of coal-producing countries help facilitate this transition and benefit from it? This paper analyses the case for coal taxes as supply-side climate policy implemented by large coal exporting countries. Coal taxes can reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and benefit coal-rich countries through improved terms-of-trade and tax revenue. We employ a multi-period equilibrium model of the international steam coal market to study a tax on steam coal levied by Australia alone, by a coalition of major exporting countries, by all exporters, and by all producers. A unilateral export tax has little impact on global emissions and global coal prices as other countries compensate for reduced export volumes from the taxing country. By contrast, a tax jointly levied by a coalition of major coal exporters would significantly reduce global emissions from steam coal and leave them with a net sector level welfare gain, approximated by the sum of producer surplus, consumer surplus, and tax revenue. Production taxes consistently yield higher tax revenues and have greater effects on global coal consumption with smaller rates of carbon leakages. Questions remain whether coal taxes by major suppliers would be politically feasible, even if they could yield economic benefits.
We thank Franziska Holz, Christian von Hirschhausen, Hanna Brauers, Steven A. Gabriel, Clément Haftendorn, Daniel Huppmann, Kai Lessmann, Claudia Kemfert, and Sauleh Siddiqui for helpful discussions and feedback as well as the participants at the Annual Meeting of the German Economic Association in Münster, the EAERE Annual Conference in Helsinki, the IAEE conferences in Düsseldorf and Rome, and at the Berlin Research Seminar on Environment, Resource and Climate Economics. We also thank three anonymous referees for their critical reading and constructive suggestions and guest editors Michael Lazarus and Harro van Asselt for their comments. Philipp M. Richter and Roman Mendelevitch gratefully acknowledge financial support from the DIW Graduate Center as well as funding by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the research framework “Economics of Climate Change” in grant no. 01LA1135B. Frank Jotzo acknowledges funding from the Coal Transitions project led by IDDRI and Climate Strategies and funded by the KR Foundation.
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