Real Options and Environmental Policies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

J.H.H. Wesseler, Jinhua Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The literature on real options shows that irreversibilities, uncertainties aboutfuture benefits and costs, and the flexibility in decision making generate benefitsand costs of delaying immediate action. When applied to government policy making, real option models can lead to efficient policies that take full account of these trade-offs, but they can also cause strategic behavior that tries to delay policies through influencing important elements such as downside risks. This contribution reviews the latest developments in real option–based policy research by looking at what we know about the benefits from waiting (the good), the costs from waiting (the bad), and how strategic behavior can influence policies (the ugly). Much has been said in the literature about the good and the bad, but more work is needed to study the ugly aspects of real option–driven policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-58
JournalAnnual Review of Resource Economics
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • real options
  • environmental policy
  • irreversibility
  • precautionary principle
  • sustainability
  • technological change


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