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Equity as a Prerequisite for Stability of Cooperation on Global Public Good Provision

An Erratum to this article was published on 06 August 2015


Analysing cooperative provision of a global public good such as climate protection, we explore the relationship between equitable burden sharing on the one hand and core stability on the other. To assess the size of the burden which a public good contribution entails for a country, we make use of a specific measure based on Moulin (Econometrica 55:963–977, 1987). In particular, we show that a Pareto optimal allocation which is not in the core can always be blocked by a group of countries with the highest Moulin sacrifices. In this sense, it is the ‘overburdening’ and thus ‘unfair’ treatment of some countries that provides the reason for core instability. By contrast, a Pareto optimal allocation is in the core if the public good contributions are fairly equally distributed according to their Moulin sacrifices. The potential implications of our theoretical analysis for global climate policy are also discussed.

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  1. The prospect of international cooperation on environmental issues and the stability of cooperation also depend, to some degree, on the environmental policy instruments that are applied. See, e.g., Endres and Finus (1999) who analyse how the instrument choice affects the success of international environmental agreements. This aspect will, however, not be considered further in this paper.

  2. The seminal application of the core concept to public good economies is Foley (1970). For treatments of the core in general public good economies, see also Myles (1995) and Cornes and Sandler (1996). Chander and Tulkens (1995, 1997, 2009), Finus and Rundshagen (2006), and (Wiesmeth (2012), pp. 108–117) apply the core concept more specifically to international environmental externalities and international public goods. Allouch (2010) provides a characterization of core allocations in the presence of warm glow effects.

  3. In a framework with transferable utility and based on different normative criteria, LeBreton et al. (2013) also consider the relationship between core stability (“secession proofness”) and fairness.

  4. The relationship between willingness-to-pay on the one hand and both the benefit principle and the ability-to-pay principle on the other is also discussed in a non-technical way by Pearson (2011, pp. 174–175).

  5. In contrast to Moulin’s (1987) result, Hahn and Gilles (1998) provide an example of an egalitarian-equivalent allocation that does not lie in the core in a two-agent public good economy. Hahn and Gilles’ (1998) framework, however, differs from the standard public good model in several respects. So, as the agents can jointly carry out only one public project, they face a discrete and not a continuous choice of public good supply—which Hahn and Gilles (1998) identify as the main reason why they reach a conclusion being different from Moulin (1987). More importantly, Hahn and Gilles (1998) also assume in their example that joint provision of the public project by the two agents makes one agent worse off than in her standalone solution. Without this rather unorthodox assumption, the egalitarian-equivalent allocation would also be in the core of the Hahn and Gilles’ (1998) example.

  6. With this modification, the second inequality of relationship (8) in the proof of Proposition 1 becomes redundant, as \(K\subseteq {K}'\). After the last inequality in (8), we have to set \(C_K (G^{B(K)})\ge C_{{K}'} (G^{B(K)})\), which is trivially satisfied.


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We thank the participants of a seminar at the CAU Kiel, at the meeting of the AURÖ in Linz and the TUB Berlin and particularly Thomas Eichner for their valuable comments. We in particular thank four referees whose valuable comments and suggestions have been very helpful to improve our paper. Furthermore, we acknowledge financial support from the BMBF (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) through RECAP 15 (FKZ 01LA1139A) and the ECCUITY (FKZ 01LA1104B).

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Correspondence to Wolfgang Buchholz.

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1.1 Proof of the Lemma

(i) If: From inequality (5) in the main text, we get \(d:=\sum _{i\in K} {(y_i -h_i^A (\tilde{G}))-C(\tilde{G})>0} \). Thus, the allocation \(B(K)\) defined by \(G^{B(K)}=\tilde{G}\) and \(x_i^{B(K)} =h_i^{B(K)} (\tilde{G})+\frac{d}{k}\) for all \(i\in K\) is feasible for subgroup\(K\), since it fulfils condition (1) of the main text. Clearly, \(B(K)\) blocks the initial allocation \(A\), since all countries in subgroup \(K\) are strictly better off in \(B(K)\) than in allocation \(A\). Because public good supply \(G^{B(K)}\) in a blocking allocation being constructed in this way can be chosen as any \(\tilde{G}\) which satisfies (5), this also shows the last part of the Lemma.

(ii) Only if: If coalition \(K\) can block allocation \(A\) by choosing the allocation \(B(K)\) with public good supply \(G^{B(K)}\), then condition (2) directly gives \(h_i^A (G^{B(K)})<x_i^{B(K)} \) for all \(i\in K\). From equation (1) in the main text it thus follows that condition (5) is fulfilled for \(\tilde{G}=G^{B(K)}\). But if this is the case for some \(\tilde{G}\) there even is a public good supply level \(\tilde{G}<G^{A}\) for which inequality (5) also holds. To show this we start from the Samuelson condition for the Pareto-optimal allocation \(A\) which reads as \(\sum _{i=1}^n {\frac{\partial h_i^A }{\partial G}} (G^{A})+{C}'(G^{A})=0\). (since \(mrs_i (h_i^A (G^{A}),G^{A})=-\frac{\partial h_i^A }{\partial G}(G^{A})\), this formulation of the Samuelson condition is equivalent to that stated at the beginning of Sect. 2.2). As \(\frac{\partial h_i^A }{\partial G}<0\) especially for all \(i\notin K\), then \(\frac{\partial Y_K^A }{\partial G}(G^{A})=\sum _{i\in K} {\frac{\partial h_i^A }{\partial G}} (G^{A})+{C}'(G^{A})>0\). Convexity of indifference curves and \(_{ }{C}''(G)\ge 0\) furthermore imply that \(\frac{\partial Y_K^A }{\partial G}(G)>0\) holds also for all \(G\ge G^{A}\), and thus that \(Y_K^A (G)>Y_K^A (G^{A})\) for all \(G>G^{A}\). Combined with continuity of the function \(Y_K^A (G)\) this entails that condition (5) can be satisfied for some \(\tilde{G}<G^{A}\) as soon as it can be satisfied at all.

1.2 Proof of Proposition 1

If some coalition \(K\) can block a given allocation \(A\), the Lemma gives that \(G^{B(K)}<G^{A}\) can be assumed for the public good supply \(G^{B(K)}\) in the blocking allocation. We can then show that the coalition defined by \({K}':=\left\{ {i\in N:G^{B(K)}\ge \bar{{G}}_i^A } \right\} \) is also able to block allocation \(A\). As indifference curves are downward sloping, we clearly have \({K}'=\left\{ {i\in N:h_i^A (G^{B(K)})\le y_i } \right\} \), which implies the following relations:

$$\begin{aligned} \sum \limits _{i\in {K}'} (y_i \!-\!h_i^A (G^{B(K)}))\!\ge \! \sum \limits _{i\in {K}'\cap K} (y_i \!-\!h_i^A (G^{B(K)}))\!\ge \! \sum \limits _{i\in K} (y_i \!-\!h_i^A (G^{B(K)}))\!>\!C(G^{B(K)}).\quad \end{aligned}$$

The first inequality in (8) is satisfied, since \(y_i -h_i^A (G^{B(K)})\ge 0\) for all \(i\in {K}'\) follows from the definition of \({K}'\), and since, clearly, \({K}'\cap K\subseteq {K}'\). The second inequality is obtained because, for all countries \(i\) that are in \(K\) but not in \({K}'\), we have \(y_i -h_i^A (G^{B(K)})<0\). The third inequality is implied by the ‘only-if’ part of the Lemma. The ‘if-part’ of the Lemma then shows that the coalition \({K}'\) is also able to block allocation \(A\). Finally, we define , implying that . Thus, gives the requested threshold level for the Moulin sacrifices.

1.3 Proof of Proposition 2

We first show that, for any subgroup \(K\), there exists an \(\varepsilon (K)>0\) such that all Pareto-optimal allocations \(A\) for which \(s_i^A \in \left[ {s^{E}-\varepsilon (K),s^{E}+\varepsilon (K)} \right] \) holds for all \(i=1,\ldots ,n\) cannot be blocked by coalition \(K\). Otherwise, there would exist a sequence \((A_j )_{j\in {\mathbb {N}}} \) of Pareto-optimal allocations (and corresponding sequences of Moulin sacrifices \((s_i^{A_j } )_{j\in {\mathbb {N}}} \) and utility levels \((u_i^{A_j } )_{j\in {\mathbb {N}}} \) with \(\lim \limits _{j\rightarrow \infty } s_i^{A_j } =s^{E}\) and \( \lim \limits _{j\rightarrow \infty } u_i^{A_j } =u^{E}\) for each \(i=1,\ldots ,n)\) such that, for all \(j\in {\mathbb {N}}\), coalition \(K\) could block allocation \(A_j =(x_j^{A_j } )_{j\in {\mathbb {N}}} \). Then, the Lemma implies that \(\hat{{Y}}_K^{A_j } <Y_K \) for all \(j\in {N}\). As \(\lim \limits _{j\rightarrow \infty } u_i^{A_j } =u^{E}\), this gives \(\hat{{Y}}_K^E =\lim \limits _{j\rightarrow \infty } \hat{{Y}}_K^{A_j } <Y_K \), which—again according to the Lemma—means that coalition \(K\) could attain the same utility levels for all its members by standing alone and choosing a blocking allocation with some public good supply \(G^{B(K)}\). Since, trivially, \(G^{B(K)}>G^{E}-s^{E}\), the allocation in which the coalition \(K\) chooses \(B(K)\) and all countries \(i\notin K\) enjoy private consumption \(y_i \) is feasible and—as \(h_i^A (G^{B(K)})<y_i \) for all \(i=1,\ldots ,n\)—would entail a Pareto improvement over \(E\). This, however, contradicts the Pareto optimality of \(E\). Thus, a sequence \((A_j )_{j\in {\mathbb {N}}} \) of blockable allocations converging to \(E\) cannot exist, implying that there is a critical value \(\varepsilon (K)>0\) with the required property for any coalition \(K\). Taking the minimum of all \(\varepsilon (K)\) over the finitely many subgroups of \(N\) then completes the proof.

1.4 Proof of Proposition 3

Given some coalition \(K\) let \(\underline{s}(K):=s^{E}+(\bar{{G}}^{E}-\bar{{G}}^{E(K)})\) be the threshold level for Moulin sacrifices, where \(\bar{{G}}^{E}\) and \(\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}\) are the egalitarian-equivalent public good supply levels for the EMS \(E\) of all countries and for the standalone equal Moulin sacrifice solution \(E(K)\) of group \(K\), respectively. Now consider any allocation \(A\) for which \(s_i^A >\underline{s}(K)\) holds for each country \(i\in K\). Then we have

$$\begin{aligned} \bar{{G}}_i^A= & {} G^{A}-s_i^A <G^{A}-(s^{E}+(\bar{{G}}^{E}-\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}))=G^{A}-(({G}^{E}-\bar{{G}}^{E})\nonumber \\&+\,\,(\bar{{G}}^{E}-\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}))=\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}. \end{aligned}$$

In (9) the first and the second equality signs follow from the definition of the Moulin sacrifices, the inequality sign from the assumption \(s_i^A >\underline{s}(K)\) and the definition of \(\underline{s}(K)\), and the last equality sign from \(G^{A}=G^{E}\) because with CEP preferences public good supply is the same in all Pareto optimal allocation. From \(\bar{{G}}_i^A <\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}\), as established by (9), it follows that \(u_i (x_i^{E(K)} ,G^{E(K)})=u_i (y_i ,\bar{{G}}^{E(K)})>u_i (y_i ,\bar{{G}}^{A})=u_i (x_i^A ,G^{A})\) for every \(i\in K\) so that all members of coalition \(K\) attain a higher utility in their standalone allocation \(E(K)\) than in the allocation \(A\). Therefore, coalition \(K\) is able to block allocation \(A\).

Finally, \(\bar{{G}}^{E(K)}<\bar{{G}}^{E}\) and thus the inequality \(\underline{s}^{E}>s^{E}\) hold since otherwise the feasible allocation, in which private consumption is \(x_i^{E(K)} \) for all \(i\in K\) and \(y_i \) for all \(i\notin K\) and public good supply is \(G^{E(K)}\), would Pareto dominate allocation \(E\), which is a contradiction to the Pareto optimality of \(E\).

1.5 Proof of Proposition 4

We rank countries in descending order of their Moulin sacrifices, i.e. \(s_1^A \ge \ldots \ge s_n^A\). Then, initial endowment is shifted from some country \(j\) to another country \(l>j\) such that the Moulin sacrifice of country \(j\) decreases and that of country \(l\) increases while the ranking of the sacrifice levels is preserved. Given the technological assumption T1 the allocation \(A\) remains feasible after such a redistribution of initial endowment since all private consumption levels are kept constant. For any \(k=1,\ldots ,n\), now let total income of subgroup \(K(k):=\left\{ {1,\ldots ,k} \right\} \) be denoted by \(Y_k \) before and by \(\tilde{Y}_k \) after the transfer. Obviously, \(\tilde{Y}_k =Y_k \) holds for all \(k<j\) and all \(k\ge l\), while \(\tilde{Y}_k <Y_k \) for all \(k\) with \(j\le k<l\). The Lemma then implies that no coalition \(K(k)\) is able to block the original allocation \(A\) after the change if no coalition \(K(k)\) could do so under the initial income distribution. Proposition 1, however, says that some of these coalitions \(K(k)\) (with the relatively highest Moulin sacrifices) should have been able to block \(A\) if this allocation can be blocked at all. This shows that allocation \(A\) remains in the core after the income redistribution.

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Buchholz, W., Haupt, A. & Peters, W. Equity as a Prerequisite for Stability of Cooperation on Global Public Good Provision. Environ Resource Econ 65, 61–78 (2016).

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  • Public goods
  • Core
  • Equity
  • Stability of cooperation

JEL Classification

  • C71
  • D63
  • H41