Edited by Giles Atkinson, Simon Dietz, Eric Neumayer and Matthew Agarwala
We discuss intra-/intergenerational equity issues and sketch a framework for environmental policy analysis that places emphasis on how resources are distributed within/between current and future generations. We also discuss a portion of the empirical literature on intra-generational equity. Our starting point is that the essential purpose of environmental policy is to change consumption and production patterns. Policy change will, inevitably, create ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ among the economy’s households and firms. Indeed, the daily drama of environmental policy typically involves making hard choices rather than implementing ‘win–win’ policies. In any realistic setting environmental policy imposes both gains and losses. How to weigh such gains and losses remains a conundrum, an enigma that may well turn out to have no final answer, yet interest in distributional issues is reappearing in our field for several reasons. A direct reason for being concerned with environmental policy and distribution is that an understanding of distributional impacts allows the shaping of policy packages that are more likely to be accepted by the public.
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