Carbon Leakage: The Impact of Asymmetric Regulation on Carbon-Emitting Production

Ximin Huang, Tarkan Tan, L. Beril Toktay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Regions with carbon emission regulations bear the risk of “carbon leakage” if local producers shift production capacity to an unregulated region. We investigate the problem for a producer subject to geographically asymmetric emission regulation with uncertain future emission price. The producer has two ex ante options to lower its compliance cost: investing in clean production technology in the regulated region and building production capacity in the unregulated region. The producer determines its production quantities ex post, after emission price uncertainty is resolved. We study two anti-leakage policies, Border Tax (BT) and Output-Based Allocation (OB), where the former adopts a “stick” approach that penalizes offshore production and the latter adopts a “carrot” approach that grants free emission allowances for production in the regulated region. First, we show that the emission price uncertainty can exert opposing effects in the absence of an anti-leakage policy: When the expected emission price is low (high), a higher uncertainty aggravates (mitigates) carbon leakage. Second, through a comprehensive comparison, we highlight that while both BT and OB are able to reduce carbon leakage, BT has a stronger effect in both the regulated and unregulated regions in multiple dimensions, especially when the carbon leakage risk is high. Third, we find that a higher emission price uncertainty weakens the effect of both BT and OB. We therefore suggest that emission price uncertainty should be accounted for when formulating anti-leakage policies. Finally, we extend our analysis to a competitive case and find that the superiority of BT relative to OB is enhanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1886-1903
Number of pages18
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 11 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Kristel Alons-Hoen for her contributions to the first version of the paper during her Ph.D. at Eindhoven University of Technology. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewers and the special issue co-editors Hau Lee and Hongtao Zhang for their valuable suggestions, which led to substantive changes to the content and presentation of the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Production and Operations Management Society


  • anti-leakage policies
  • carbon leakage
  • production capacity choice
  • production technology choice


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