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PhD Defense

E-IPER Dissertation Defense: William Scott

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Event Details:

Please join us for an E-IPER dissertation defense by William Scott: "Climate Policy Interactions: Examining Trade-offs from Climate Policy Overlap in California"!

In-person: Y2E2 299

Virtual: Zoom webinar


Jurisdictions have implemented a myriad of policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Different policy instruments may be preferred by policymakers based on their priorities across multiple objectives in addition to reducing GHG emissions, such as addressing alternative market failures, incentivizing technological change, improving distributional equity, and ensuring political acceptability. The complex climate policy landscape we see today has evolved over decades, often through an ad hoc process of layering new policies onto the existing policy mix. In this dissertation, I explore how overlapping climate policy in California can lead to interactions and trade-offs across the policy objectives of emissions reduction, cost-effectiveness, innovation, and distributional equity. 

The first chapter demonstrates how the use of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) alongside a cap-and-trade program (CAT) can increase both costs and total emissions through incentivizing emissions leakage. I develop a computable general equilibrium model to estimate the magnitude of these effects in California and examine policy alternatives to improve outcomes. The second chapter empirically estimates innovation rates in biofuels in terms of both cost-reducing and carbon-reducing innovation and evaluates the extent to which policy support is justified by the social benefits generated. I find that stacked incentives between the federal and state levels in California exceed the observed benefits. The third chapter returns to the case of California’s CAT and LCFS to assess the distributional equity of policy costs. I employ household-level data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey to assess how the policy cost burden is distributed across income and geographic groups. I find that policy costs tend to be regressive across income groups and higher for rural households. Using the LCFS in combination with the CAT tends to increase policy costs for the lowest income groups compared to using a CAT alone to achieve the same level of emissions reduction. Together, the findings from this research contribute to better understanding interactions between overlapping climate policies and highlight important trade-offs in the use of standards rather than pricing instruments to reduce GHG emissions.