Environmental Modeling & Assessment

, Volume 17, Issue 1–2, pp 91–106 | Cite as

Using an Allowance Reserve to Manage Uncertain Costs in a Cap-and-Trade Program for Greenhouse Gases

  • Alexander GolubEmail author
  • Nathaniel Keohane


This paper investigates the design and performance of an allowance reserve in the context of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. We use a Monte Carlo approach in which the parameters of the marginal abatement cost function, and the supply of offsets, are drawn from specified distributions. Our framework focuses on the potential impact of “medium-run shocks” to abatement cost and offset supply, as opposed to either short-run volatility or permanent shifts in the cost curve. Our model suggests that under reasonable (and even fairly conservative) assumptions about abatement cost and offset supply, an allowance reserve broadly similar to recent proposals for US climate legislation can be effective in containing allowance prices. In our core policy scenario, with a trigger price equal to US $32 in 2015, we estimate that the probability of drawing on the allowance reserve is <25% and the probability of requiring more than 7 GT of reserve tons over 20 years is <5%. We also use the model to explore the trade-off among three features of the reserve that are most relevant to policy makers: the total size of the reserve, the trigger price, and the degree of confidence that the reserve will be large enough to limit allowance prices to the target level. Our essential result is that a lower trigger price, or a higher degree of confidence, requires a larger reserve.


Allowance reserve Monte Carlo approach Greenhouse gases 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Defense FundWashingtonUSA

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