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An alternative policy evaluation of the British Columbia carbon tax: broadening the application of Elinor Ostrom’s design principles for managing common-pool resources

Karine Lacroix, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
Garrett Richards, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07519-200238

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Abstract

Climate change is putting infrastructure, food supply, water resources, ecosystems, and human health at risk. These risks will be exacerbated depending on the degree of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Urgent action is needed to limit the severity of impacts associated with further warming. British Columbia (BC) has taken action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from carbon-based fuels by introducing a carbon tax in 2008. As an innovative approach to climate change mitigation, especially in North America, studies evaluating its effectiveness are valuable. We assessed the long-term viability potential of the BC carbon tax using common pool resource design principles, a novel application of the design principles to environmental policy. We found that the design principles can be applied productively to environmental policy and larger scale air pollution problems. With regard to the BC carbon tax, our findings suggest that closer monitoring of user behavior, further increases of the tax over time, and pursuing efforts for a more elaborate system of nested enterprises and interjurisdictional cooperation could increase the long-term success of the BC carbon tax. We also found that the design principles allowed us to more comprehensively reach conclusions regarding the broader effectiveness of the tax when compared to existing policy analysis. Traditionally, climate policy evaluation has focused on the end goal without considering broader constraints and issues of resource allocation. We suggest that common pool resource theory, which is based on strong theoretical principles and encourages reflexivity, will be able to address those limitations.

Key words

British Columbia carbon tax; common-pool resource; Elinor Ostrom design principles; policy analysis

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087