Environmental taxes with heterogeneous consumers: An application to energy consumption in France

Helmuth Cremer, Firouz Gahvari, Norbert Ladoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper constructs a model with four groups of households who have preferences over labor supply, consumption of polluting (energy related) and non-polluting (non-energy) goods, and emissions. It quantifies the model for the French economy and computes its optimal tax equilibria under nine second-best tax regimes. We find that the redistributive role of environmental taxes requires the polluting goods to be taxed at a rate much below their marginal social damage. These goods may even require an outright subsidy if the society values equality 'a lot'. Secondly, if environmental taxes that have an exclusively externality-correcting role, they benefit all types-although the gains are rather modest. The gains and losses become more substantial when environmental taxes have a redistributive role as well. Third, setting the environmental tax at its Pigouvian level, rather than its optimal externality-correcting-cum-redistributive level, benefits the high-income group at the expense of the low-income groups. Fourth, nonlinear taxation of polluting goods, and nonlinear commodity taxation in general, is a powerful redistributive mechanism. Fifth, introducing environmental taxes in the current French tax system, with its suboptimal income taxes, results in substantial welfare gains for the highest income group and a sizable loss for the least well-off persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2791-2815
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Environmental taxes
  • Nonlinear taxes
  • Optimal taxation
  • Second-best
  • Welfare gains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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