Game Theory of Pollution: National Policies and Their International Effects

Katharina Schüller, Katerina Stankova, Frank Thuijsman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we put forward a simple game-theoretical model of pollution control, where each country is in control of its own pollution, while the environmental effects of policies do not stop at country borders. In our noncooperative differential game, countries as players minimize the present value of their own costs defined as a linear combination of pollution costs and costs of environmentally friendly policies, where the state vector of the system consists of the pollution stock per country. A player’s time-varying decision is her investment into clean policies, while her expected costs include also pollution caused by her neighbors. We analyze three variants of this game: (1) a Nash game in which each player chooses her investment into clean policies such that her expected costs are minimal, (2) a game in which the players imitate the investments into clean policies of their neighbors without taking the neighbor’s success concerning their costs into account and (3) a game in which each player imitates her neighbors’ investments into clean policies if this behavior seems to bring a profit. In each of these scenarios, we show under which conditions the countries have incentives to act environmentally friendly. We argue that the different results of these games can be used to understand and design effective environmental policies.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017


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