Studies in Policy Choices and Interactions
Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Larry Kreiser, Mikael S. Andersen, Birgitte E. Olsen, Stefan Speck, Janet E. Milne and Hope Ashiabor
Chapter 14: Regulatory taxes as an instrument to foster sustainability transitions: an exploratory analysis
Modern society faces several persistent sustainability problems. The diversity in scale, time and space makes it challenging to solve them. There are different research strands engaged in finding solutions for such contemporary sustainability challenges. For this chapter two disciplines are particularly relevant. The theory of the internalization of externalities using regulatory taxation, elaborated by Pigou (1932) and transitions thinking, which partly evolved out of complexity theory. Although both research strands try to answer partly similar research questions, there seems to be a discrepancy between the solutions presented by the two disciplines. It appears that the theory of internalization is mainly concerned with abatement of current environmental damage, which results in a focus on short-term objectives instead of the long-term objectives inherent to transition studies whereby multiple generations are involved. Although initially transition researchers regarded taxes (among other regulatory instruments) as not applicable because of the uncertainty associated with transitions (Geels et al., 2004), more recent studies show an interest in taxes as an instrument for supporting sustainability transitions. Geels (2012), for example, indicates that taxes could be used as an incremental step in low-carbon transitions. Chappin (2011) explicitly examines the role of carbon taxation in energy transition simulations, as does Van den Bergh (2013) with regard to regulation in general.
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