Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 255–276 | Cite as

A Good Opening: The Key to Make the Most of Unilateral Climate Action

  • Valentina Bosetti
  • Enrica De CianEmail author


In this paper we argue that when a subgroup of countries cooperate on emission reduction, the optimal response of non-signatory countries reflects the interaction between three potentially opposing factors, the incentive to free-ride on the environmental benefits of cooperation, the incentive to expand energy consumption, and the incentive to adopt the cleaner technologies introduced by the coalition. Using an Integrated Assessment Model with a game-theoretic structure we find that the equilibrium abatement of the coalition composed by OECD countries would be moderate, in line with the Pledges subscribed in Copenhagen, but increasing. The mitigation strategy would consist of investments in energy R&D and deployment of cleaner technologies with high learning potentials. International knowledge and technology externalities would facilitate the diffusion of cleaner technologies in non-signatory countries, offsetting the free-riding incentive and reducing their emissions. If the OECD group curbs emissions beyond the optimal equilibrium level, reaching reduction rates between 40 and 45 % below 2005 levels in 2050, the benefits of technology externalities would no longer compensate the effect of lower fossil fuel prices. Our results suggest that a moderate unilateral climate policy could induce a virtuous behaviour in non-signatory countries and that policies promoting the international transfer of technologies and knowledge could represent an effective complement to mitigation targets.


Technology spillovers Climate change Partial cooperation 

JEL Classification

Q54 Q55 C72 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fondazione ENI Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change (CMCC)VeneziaItaly

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