Efforts directed at reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases exhibit Hardin’s tragedy of the commons, a classical example of a conflict between the interests of the individual and the group: our atmosphere --- a shared resource --- is spoiled by excessive emissions, because although all countries agree that too much greenhouse gases are produced, each country selfishly prefers that other countries reduce their emissions, rather than reducing its own.
The global community has therefore relied on international environmental agreements to reduce global emissions, but these have generally achieved less than was hoped. A main reason is that these agreements are difficult to enforce, because countries are sovereign entities. Hence, countries end up promising little and delivering even less.
In a collaborative project with the Advanced Systems Analysis Program, the Evolution and Ecology Program, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania, Chai is analyzing how matching agreements can help to lower emissions. In such agreements, countries first commit to proportional levels according to which they will match one another’s unconditional emission abatements, over and above their own unconditional abatements. Based on these matching levels, each country then determines its own unconditional abatement. Such agreements have shown promise in managing individual-group conflicts of interests, because they increase each country’s incentive to abate its emissions while reducing its fear of being exploited.
Chai’s analysis of the effects of matching agreements on emissions will hopefully inform the construction of new, more effective, future climate agreements.
Funding: Exploratory and Special projects, collaboration between Princeton University and Professor Dr. Simon Levin
Program: Advanced Systems Analysis & Evolution and Ecology Program
Dates: July 2017 - June 2018
Last edited: 21 February 2018
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