The fiscal benefits of stringent climate change mitigation (Climate Policy)

The Paris Agreement’s very ambitious mitigation goals, notably to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming to 1.5°C, imply that climate policy will remain a national affair for some time. One key obstacle to very ambitious national mitigation is that some policy makers perceive this to be in competition with major goals of fiscal policy, such as public investment or debt reduction. However, climate policy may actually contribute to these other objectives. Importantly, many fiscal implications of substantial carbon prices, which are essential for stringent mitigation targets such as the 1.5°C goal, have long been neglected by economic analyses of climate change mitigation. This study systematically reviews recent contributions on interactions between climate policy and public finance, which include many topics beyond the classic `double dividend’ of environmental tax swaps. The authors identify new conclusions about climate policy designs that may overcome fiscal objections and research gaps. They find that national climate policy often aligns with other objectives, provided that climate policies and fiscal policies are integrated well. A first class of interactions concerns public revenue-raising: carbon pricing can replace distortionary taxes and alleviate international tax competition; climate policy also changes asset values, which impacts the base of non-climate taxes and boosts productive investment. Second, they concern public spending, which needs to be restructured as a part of climate policy, while carbon pricing revenues may be recycled for public investment. Third, distributional impacts of climate policies include changes to household expenditures, to asset values and to employment; balancing them often requires fiscal policies. The findings underline that jointly considering climate policy and fiscal policy can help to make substantial mitigation politically feasible. The full study is available for download on the Taylor & Francis website.