European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 553–578 | Cite as

Emissions trading for households? A behavioral law and economics perspective

  • Edwin Woerdman
  • Jan Willem Bolderdijk


This is the first research article on expanding emissions trading in the EU to households in which law and economics is explicitly and systematically combined with behavioral science. The goal of the article is neither to plead in favor nor against emissions trading for households, but rather to provide an analysis of such a scheme. To that end, the article gathers relevant theoretical insights and discusses how established empirical findings can be used to design a potentially workable scheme. The analysis not only presents an overview of possible economic and behavioral barriers, but also creates a feedback to its institutional design by presenting possible solutions to overcome them. Downstream allocation creates a more direct and visible carbon incentive, whereas administrative costs can be reduced by concentrating monitoring and enforcement upstream. Behavioral acceptance can be boosted via strategic communication, for instance by stressing that emissions trading is both effective (emissions are capped) and fair (those who emit less, pay less). Energy conservation can be stimulated by frequently sending updates to households of their carbon transactions to make the consequences of their behavior more noticeable. Whether these necessary conditions are also sufficient to ensure political acceptance remains an open question.


Climate change Emissions trading Household sector Transport sector Administrative costs Behavioral conditions 

JEL Classification

D03 D14 H32 H31 K32 R48 Q54 



The article benefited from critical observations made by Oren Perez and the participants of the 5th Annual Meeting of the Society for Environmental Law and Economics (SELE) held in 2013 in Ramat Gan (Israel), especially Arden Rowell. The authors also wish to thank Michael Faure and the participants of the 27th Annual Conference of the European Association of Law and Economics (EALE) held in 2010 in Paris (France), in particular Neli Iltcheva and Sandra Rousseau. In addition, the authors are obliged to Jürgen Backhaus and the participants of the 23rd Workshop in Law and Economics held in 2010 in Erfurt (Germany), especially Andries Nentjes, Oscar Couwenberg and Christoph von Freydorf. Also the valuable remarks made by three anonymous referees as well as Linda Steg, Avelien Haan-Kamminga, Marijn Holwerda, Anne-Ruth Mackor, Stefan Weishaar, Surya Roy, René Bendersand a number of Honours students from the Faculty of Law in Groningen are very much appreciated. Any remaining errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Law and Economics, Faculty of LawUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Marketing, Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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