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Winners of the 2020 HEEP Paper Prizes

2020 HEEP Student Paper Prize Winners

May 27, 2020

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Harvard Environmental Economics Program has, for the eleventh consecutive year, awarded three prizes to Harvard University students for the best research papers addressing a topic in environmental, energy, or natural-resource economics – one prize each for an undergraduate paper or senior thesis, master’s student paper, and doctoral student paper. Each prize was accompanied by a monetary award. The...

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HEEP is a university-wide initiative addressing today's complex environmental challenges and is based in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Learn more by reading director Robert Stavins' welcome message.

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Recent Publications

Metcalf, Gilbert, and James H. Stock. “Measuring the Macroeconomic Impact of Carbon Taxes.” Harvard Environmental Economics Program Discussion Paper Series (2020).Abstract
Economists have long argued that a carbon tax is a cost effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, members of Congress agree. In 2019, seven carbon tax bills were filed in Congress (Kaufman et al., 2019). In addition, the Climate Leadership Council has built bipartisan support for a carbon tax and dividend plan (Baker et al., 2017). In contrast, the Trump Administration is retreating from any climate policy and has taken steps to withdraw from the Paris Accord, citing heavy economic costs to the U.S. economy from meeting the U.S. commitments made during the Obama Administration. In his June 1, 2017 statement on the Accord, for example, the President claimed that the cost to the economy would be “close to \$3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs…” (Trump, 2017). What is the basis for claims about the economic impact of a carbon tax? Economic impacts of a carbon tax typically are estimated using computable general equilibrium (CGE) models (as was done for the report on which Trump based his claims). These models, while helpful, make many simplifying assumptions to remain tractable, including optimization, representative agents, and simplified expectations and dynamics, so at a minimum those estimates would ideally be complemented by empirical evidence on the macroeconomic effects of carbon taxes in practice. With carbon taxes in place in twenty-five countries around the world, including some dating to the early 1990s, empirical analysis of historical experience is now possible. This paper considers carbon taxes in Europe to estimate their impact on GDP and employment.
Sunstein, Cass R.Internalities, Externalities, and Fuel Economy.” Harvard Environmental Economics Program Discussion Paper Series (2020).Abstract
It is standard to think that corrective taxes, responding to externalities, are generally or always better than regulatory mandates, but in the face of behavioral market failures, that conclusion might not be right. Fuel economy and energy efficiency mandates are possible examples. Because such mandates might produce billions of dollars in annual consumer savings, they might have very high net benefits, complicating the choice between such mandates and externality-correcting taxes (such as carbon taxes). The net benefits of mandates that simultaneously reduce internalities and externalities might exceed the net benefits of taxes that reduce externalities alone, even if mandates turn out to be a highly inefficient way of reducing externalities. An important qualification is that corrective taxes might be designed to reduce both externalities and internalities, in which case they would almost certainly be preferable to a regulatory mandate.

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