The polluter-pays principle in climate change law: An economic appraisal

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There is a lively debate among scholars and policymakers on whether either consumers or producers should be seen as responsible for pollution caused in the production and consumption of traded goods. In this article, we argue that, in conformity with intuitive conceptions of causation, the economic incidence of a Pigouvian tax can be seen as a measure of the relative contribution to pollution of consumers and producers. Taking this perspective on the polluter-pays principle can help increase ambition in climate change action because it reduces the relevance of the question “Who is the polluter?” in climate change negotiations and enables a focus instead on the issue of “What can be done?” to reduce carbon emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-115
JournalClimate Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2020


  • polluter-pays principle
  • causation of environmental harm
  • Coasean bargaining
  • Pigouvian tax
  • economic incidence of tax

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