When do Firms Go Green?

Comparing Price Incentives with Command and Control Regulations in India

by Ann E. Harrison, Ben Hyman, Leslie A. Martin, Shanthi Nataraj

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India has a multitude of environmental regulations but a history of poor enforcement. Between 1996 and 2004, India's Supreme Court required 17 cities to enact Action Plans to reduce air pollution through a variety of command-and-control (CAC) environmental regulations. We compare the impacts of these regulations with the impact of changes in coal prices on establishment-level pollution abatement, coal consumption, and productivity growth. We find that higher coal prices reduced coal use within establishments, with price elasticities similar to those found in the US. In addition, higher coal prices are associated with lower pollution emissions at the district level. CAC regulations did not affect within-establishment pollution control investment or coal use, but did impact the extensive margin, increasing the share of large establishments investing in pollution control and reducing the entry of new establishments. For reducing SO2 emissions, our results suggest that higher coal prices were more effective in improving environmental outcomes than command and control measures.

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