Mengjia Ren, Lee Branstetter, Brian Kovak, Daniel Armanios, Jiahai Yuan, 16 March 2019

Despite leading the world in clean energy investment in recent years, China continues to engage in massive expansion of coal power thanks to policies that effectively subsidise and (over)incentivise coal power investment. This column examines the effects of the 2014 devolution of authority from the central government to local governments on approvals for coal power projects. It finds that the approval rate for coal power projects is about three times higher when the approval authority is decentralised, and provinces with larger coal industries tend to approve more coal power.

Jaime de Melo, Jean-Marc Solleder, 13 March 2019

Developing countries have not participated in the WTO-led negotiations aimed at bringing down barriers to trade in environmental goods. If negotiations conclude, would the win for trade and for the environment be extended to a win for developing countries? This column draws insights from a newly assembled comprehensive dataset on barriers to trade in environmental goods and provides evidence that tariffs and non-tariff barriers are still an impediment to trade while similar regulations stimulate it. A larger list of environmental goods would entice developing-country participation, but this will also require protecting developing countries from challenges at the WTO.

Jonathan Dingel, Kyle Meng, 06 March 2019

Climate change is expected to reshape the global distribution of productivities. In theory, shifts in the spatial structure of economic conditions will affect international inequality by altering the pattern of international trade. In practice, it is hard to identify natural experiments to causally validate predictions about global conditions. This column describes research that exploits a global climatic phenomenon to estimate the general equilibrium consequences of changes in the spatial correlation of productivities. 

Gabriel Ahlfeldt, Elisabetta Pietrostefani, 22 February 2019

Most countries pursue policies that implicitly or explicitly aim at promoting ‘compact urban form’, but so far these policies have not been well-grounded in evidence. This column summarises the state of knowledge on the economic effects of density on various economic outcomes. It concludes that densification policies may lead to aggregate welfare gains, but there may be regressive distributional consequences.

Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Pauline Ravillard, 14 February 2019

Promoting investment in energy efficiency has become increasingly important over the past decade, but not much is known about effective ways to promote firm-level investments in energy efficiency. Using new experimental data on EU firms’ stated willingness to invest in hypothetical energy-efficiency projects with varying offers of financing and technical assistance, this column demonstrates how a favourable financing offer can increase the likelihood that firms are willing to invest in energy efficiency by as much as 33%. 

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