Billy Pizer

Billy Pizer

Faculty Fellow

919-613-9286

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Areas of Expertise: climate and energy policy, clean energy finance, environment and development, environmental regulation

Billy Pizer holds joint appointments as professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy and as a faculty fellow in the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. 

His current research examines how public policies to promote clean energy can effectively leverage private sector investments, how environmental regulation and climate policy can affect production costs and competitiveness, and how the design of market-based environmental policies can be improved.  From 2008 until 2011, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, overseeing Treasury’s role in the domestic and international environment and energy agenda of the United States. Prior to that, he was a researcher at Resources for the Future for more than a decade. He has written more than two dozen peer-reviewed publications, books, and articles, and holds a Ph.D. and Master's degree in economics from Harvard University and Bachelor's degree in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide

To estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide for use in regulatory impact analyses, the federal government should use a new framework that would strengthen the scientific basis, provide greater transparency, and improve characterization of the uncertainties of the estimates, says a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report also identifies a number of near- and longer-term improvements that should be made for calculating the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon (SC-CO2) is an estimate, in dollars, of the net damages incurred by society from a 1 metric ton increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. The SC-CO2 is intended to be a comprehensive estimate of the net damages from carbon emissions—that is, the net costs and benefits associated with climate change impacts such as changes in net agricultural productivity, risks to human health, and damage from such events as floods.  As required by executive orders and a court ruling, government agencies use the SC-CO2 when analyzing the impacts of various regulations, including standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy, regulation of emissions from power plants, and energy efficiency standards for appliances. 

Authors: Maureen L. Cropper, Richard G. Newell, Myles Allen, Maximilian Auffhammer, Chris E. Forest, Inez Y. Fung,  James K. Hammitt, Henry D. Jacoby, Robert E. Kopp, William Pizer, Steven K. Rose, Richard Schmalensee, and John P. Weyant

Filters

Carbon Tax

Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

The Paris Agreement and Beyond: International Climate Change Policy Post 2020

While the Paris Agreement sets forth an innovative and potentially effective policy architecture, a great deal remains to be done to elaborate the accord—to formulate the many rules and guidelines required and to specify more precise means of implementation. Governments, other stakeholders, and researchers also need to think about constraints on the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement—and identify organizations and processes that could complement the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process more broadly. In July 2016, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements hosted a research workshop at the Harvard Kennedy School, the purpose of which was to identify options for elaborating and implementing the Paris Agreement—and to identify policies and institutions that might complement or supplement the Paris-Agreement regime. Participants, which included Nicholas Institute researchers Brian Murray and Billy Pizer, subsequently prepared the briefs that are included in this volume, based largely on their presentations at the workshop, addressing opportunities for—and challenges to—elaborating, implementing, and complementing the Paris Agreement. 

Filters

Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Reports

Increasing Emissions Certainty under a Carbon Tax

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some groups have proposed that the United States consider use of a carbon tax. But whether the nation will achieve a specific emissions goal is uncertain because the economy’s response to such a tax is uncertain. Ultimately, there is an underlying tradeoff between certainty about emissions and certainty about prices and costs. To reduce uncertainty about whether a tax will achieve specific emissions goals, additional mitigation measures could be called on if emissions exceed those goals by a given amount. However, such additional measures introduce uncertainty about costs. At the extreme, a commitment to achieve emissions targets at all costs would imply that costs could be quite high. Discussions of policy mechanisms to increase price and cost certainty under several current cap-and-trade programs confronted this same dilemma: how much uncertainty about emissions outcomes is acceptable given reciprocal uncertainty about costs? Viewed through a slightly different lens, mechanisms that balance emissions and cost uncertainty can be viewed as a way to structure a more careful compromise between economic and environmental interests. This policy brief discusses mechanisms that could increase emissions certainty under a carbon tax. It draws from recent discussions between the authors and other policy experts, and its goal is to introduce ideas for further exploration. It begins with a discussion of how to measure emissions performance, or what it means to be achieving or not achieving an emissions goal. This performance would presumably provide the basis for pursuing remedial mechanisms. Next, the brief turns to a taxonomy of such mechanisms and the challenges and opportunities of each. It discusses ideas for initiating these mechanisms, either through some automated or discretionary procedure. The brief concludes with areas for additional research. The brief intentionally raises more questions than it answers—questions will be important to explore in ways that can provide guidance to policy decisions and design.

Authors: Brian Murray, William A. Pizer, and Christina Reichert

Filters

Carbon Tax

Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Policy Briefs

Economic Tools to Promote Transparency and Comparability in the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement culminates a six-year transition toward an international climate policy architecture based on submission of national pledges every five years. An important policy task will be to assess and compare these pledges. This study in the journal Nature Climate Change uses four integrated assessment models to produce metrics of Paris Agreement pledges, and it shows differentiated effort across countries: compared with poorer countries, wealthier countries undertake greater emissions reductions with higher costs. The pledges fall in the lower end of the distributions of the social cost of carbon and the cost-minimizing path to limiting warming to 2 degrees Centigrade, suggesting insufficient global ambition in light of leaders’ climate goals. Countries’ marginal abatement costs vary by two orders of magnitude, illustrating that large efficiency gains are available through joint mitigation efforts, carbon price coordination, or both. Marginal costs rise almost proportionally with income, but full policy costs reveal more complex regional patterns due to terms of trade effects.

Authors: Joseph Aldy, William Pizer, Massimo Tavoni, Lara Aleluia Reis, Keigo Akimoto, Geffrey Blanford, Carlo Carraro, Leon E. Clarke, James Edmonds, Gokul C. Iyer, Haewon C. McJeon, Richard Richels, Steven Rose, and Fuminori Sano

Filters

Environmental Economics

Modeling

Journal Articles