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  • Author: Ben McWilliams, Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Many of the technologies that can help the European Union become a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 have been shown to work but are not yet commercially competitive with incumbent fossil-fuel technologies. There is not enough private investment to drive the deployment of new low-carbon alternatives. This is primarily because carbon prices are neither high enough nor stable. There are a number of benefits from the deployment of low-carbon technologies that private firms do not factor in. These include the benefits of decreasing industry-wide costs over time, and the global climate benefits from the development of low-carbon technologies within the EU that can subsequently be exported. The result is an investment level below the socially optimal value in the EU. Commercialisation contracts could be implemented as a temporary measure to remove the risk associated with uncertain carbon prices for ambitious low-carbon projects. The aim of the contracts would be to increase private investment to the socially optimal level. Contracts would be allocated through auctions in which fixed prices for abated emissions over a fixed duration would be agreed on a project-by-project basis. On an annual basis, public subsidies amounting to the difference between the agreed carbon price and the actual EU carbon price would be provided to investors, depending on the total carbon emissions abated. As long as EU carbon prices are low, investors would receive larger subsidies to ensure their competitiveness. Contracts would be auctioned at EU level. This would generate increased competition compared to national auctions, leading to more efficient outcomes and preventing fragmentation of the single market. From about €3 billion to €6 billion would be provided to the main industrial emitting sectors annually, with the amount reducing as the EU carbon price rises and low-carbon technologies become competitive without subsidy.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Science and Technology, Investment, Trade, Carbon Emissions, Decarbonization
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Maria Demertzis, Marta Dominguez-Jimenez, Lionel Guetta-Jeanrenaud
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The European Union’s capital markets remain very underdeveloped compared to the United States. The market for equity, as measured as the size of the total market capitalisation of listed domestic firms relative to GDP, is much larger in the US and in Japan than in Europe.
  • Topic: European Union, GDP, Capital Flows
  • Political Geography: Japan, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Monika Grzegorczyk, Mario Mariniello, Laura Nurski, Tom Schraepen
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The pandemic has shown that many workers can efficiently work remotely, with benefits for wellbeing and even productivity. The European Union should develop a framework to facilitate hybrid work.
  • Topic: European Union, Work Culture, Innovation, Strategic Competition, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Gregory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Maria Demertzis, Guntram B. Wolff
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the biggest global recession since the Second World War. Forecasts show the European Union underperforming economically relative to the United States and China during 2019-2023. Southern European countries have been particularly strongly affected. While the ICT sector has benefitted from the COVID-19 crisis, tourism, travel and services have suffered. Business insolvencies have, paradoxically, fallen. While total employment has almost recovered, the young and those with low-level qualifications have suffered employment losses. Inequality could rise. The pandemic may lead to medium to long-term changes in the economy, with more teleworking, possibly higher productivity growth and changed consumer behaviour. Policymakers must act to prevent lasting divergence within the EU and to prevent scarring from the fallout from the pandemic. The first priority is tackling the global health emergency. Second, we warn against premature fiscal tightening and recommend instead additional short-term support from national budgets. Over the medium term, fiscal policymakers will need to gradually move away from supporting companies through subsidies, towards tax incentives for corporate investment. A review of the European fiscal framework is needed to achieve the EU’s green goals more rapidly. The quality of public finances, how policymakers spend resources and the associated reforms are of central importance to prevent scarring. Improving the efficiency of insolvency procedures will be crucial for speedy and effective recovery. Targeted labour market policies for the young and less-qualified are needed. As teleworking becomes a more permanent feature of the EU’s labour markets, it will be crucial to adapt social security and taxation systems in the context of the single market for labour. The EU should resist protectionist calls in the wake of the pandemic. Rigorous competition policy enforcement and an integrated EU market have been beneficial for European convergence and growth. Capital markets have an important role to play in a speedy recovery.
  • Topic: Governance, European Union, Inequality, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Uri Dadush, Pauline Weil
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Despite tensions over China’s discriminatory business practices, China’s trade continues to thrive, and the country has taken over from the United States as the first destination for foreign investment. American and European businesses continue to be engaged in China’s large and growing market, even amid a trade war between China and the United States. Drawing on surveys of companies and international comparisons, we show that – contrary to the prevailing narrative – China’s business practices have improved significantly in recent years. China’s business environment is today generally more favourable than that in other large countries at similar levels of development and, in some though certainly not all aspects, is in line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. Differences over geopolitics and human rights must be addressed, but it is clear that trade and investment agreements conditioned on accelerated reforms in China would yield substantial dividends. The benefits of such deals would accrue not only to foreign investors in China and exporters to China, but also to consumers and importers in the European Union and, especially, in the US, where punitive tariffs on China remain in effect. Critical aspects in the negotiations would include better access for American and European investors to China’s market for services and improved enforcement of rules and regulations in China. As in many middle-income countries, uneven enforcement of the law (rather than the law itself) remains a critical problem in China.
  • Topic: Development, Bilateral Relations, European Union, Business , Investment
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Marta Dominguez-Jimenez, Alexander Lehmann
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: International debt investors increasingly demand assets that are aligned with environmental, social and governance objectives. Sovereign debt is being belatedly swept up in this change. This huge asset class represents a uniquely long-term claim and funds a wide range of public expenditure, both brown and green. Public capital expenditures will be a central part of the roughly €3 trillion investment budget needed to pay for the European Green Deal. European Union countries have so far met investor appetite for climate-aligned assets through sovereign green bonds, the issuance of which has rapidly grown since 2017. The EU itself will also issue green bonds in large volumes. However, because of some inherent flaws in such instruments and as their still-weak frameworks, these bonds are unlikely to meet the environmental criteria demanded by investors, and will complicate established principles in sovereign debt management. Much more comprehensive information is needed on the climate related aspects of the public budgets of EU countries. Greater transparency in this respect would support stability and improve the functioning of capital markets, given that sovereign debt plays a pivotal role in all investor portfolios and also in regulatory and monetary policy. Adoption by sovereign issuers of green budgeting principles, based on a common taxonomy of sustainable activities, would enhance transparency. It could also be driven by investors who, under new EU rules, must disclose the climate-related aspects of all financial instruments offered in the capital market.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Debt, Markets, Sovereignty, European Union, Finance, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Ben McWilliams, Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Hydrogen is seen as a means to decarbonise sectors with greenhouse gas emissions that are hard to reduce, as a medium for energy storage, and as a fallback in case halted fossil-fuel imports lead to energy shortages. Hydrogen is likely to play at least some role in the European Union’s achievement by 2050 of a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target. However, production of hydrogen in the EU is currently emissions intensive. Hydrogen supply could be decarbonised if produced via electrolysis based on electricity from renewable sources, or produced from natural gas with carbon, capture, and storage. The theoretical production potential of low-carbon hydrogen is virtually unlimited and production volumes will thus depend only on demand and supply cost. Estimates of final hydrogen demand in 2050 range from levels similar to today’s in a low-demand scenario, to ten times today’s level in a high-demand scenario. Hydrogen is used as either a chemical feedstock or an energy source. A base level of 2050 demand can be derived from looking at sectors that already consume hydrogen and others that are likely to adopt hydrogen. The use of hydrogen in many sectors has been demonstrated. Whether use will increase depends on the complex interplay between competing energy supplies, public policy, technological and systems innovation, and consumer preferences. Policymakers must address the need to displace carbon-intensive hydrogen with low-carbon hydrogen, and incentivise the uptake of hydrogen as a means to decarbonise sectors with hard-to-reduce emissions. Certain key principles can be followed without regret: driving down supply costs of low-carbon hydrogen production; accelerating initial deployment with public support to test the economic viability and enable learning; and continued strengthening of climate policies such as the EU emissions trading system to stimulate the growth of hydrogen-based solutions in the areas for which hydrogen is most suitable.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Carbon Emissions, Decarbonization, Hydrogen
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Uri Dadush, André Sapir
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The European Union is very open to foreign direct investment. By comparison, despite considerable liberalisation in the past two decades, foreign investors in China’s markets still face significant restrictions, especially in services sectors. Given this imbalance, the EU has long sought to improve the situation for its companies operating or wanting to operate in China. After eight years of negotiations, the EU and China concluded in December 2020 a bilateral Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). The text awaiting ratification aims to give foreign investors greater market access, enforceable via state-to-state dispute settlement. It does not yet, however, cover investor protection (such as against expropriation). Meanwhile, investor protection is covered by bilateral investment treaties between EU countries and China, which remain in force. The CAI has been met in some quarters with scepticism on economic and geopolitical grounds. The main criticism is that it provides little new market access in China, and that this small economic gain for the EU comes at the price of breaking ranks with its main political ally, the United States. Our assessment, which focuses on the economic implications, is different. It is true the CAI provides only modest new market access in China, but this is because China has already made progress in recent years in liberalising its foreign investment regulations unilaterally. The CAI binds this progress under an international treaty, marking an improvement for EU firms insofar as their market access rights can be effectively enforced. Most important, the CAI includes new rules on subsidies, state-owned enterprises, technology transfer and transparency, which will improve effective market access for EU firms operating in China. These bilateral new rules could also pave the way for reform of the multilateral rules under the World Trade Organisation, with the aim of better integrating China into the international trading and investment system – a goal shared by the EU, the United States and other like-minded countries. From an economic viewpoint therefore, the CAI is an important agreement, and one worth having. However, its ratification by the European Parliament is unlikely while China continues to apply sanctions against some members of the European Parliament and other critics of China’s human rights record.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, European Union, Investment, Liberalization
  • Political Geography: China, Europe
  • Author: Ottmar Edenhofer, Mirjam Kosch, Michael Pahle, Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: Putting carbon pricing at the centre of the EU climate policy architecture would provide major benefits. Obtaining these benefits requires a uniform, credible and durable carbon price – the economic first-best solution, however, several preconditions required to attain this solution are not yet met. This paper proposes a sequenced approach to ensure convergence of the policy mix on the first-best in the long run.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Carbon Tax, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Maria Demertzis, Nicola Viegi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: In both Europe and the United States, interest rates have been declining for more than fifteen years. For much of this period, real interest rates have been negative and they are expected to remain negative for at least another decade. The literature associates this decline in interest rates with a similarly protracted decline in productivity. But the decline in productivity appears paradoxical given major technological advances. The decline in the price of capital is underpinned by the factors that have caused a decline in demand for capital, as well as a relative increase in its supply. On the supply side, aging and an increase in overall macroeconomic risk since the financial crisis have both led to increased savings. On the demand side, the increase in the importance of intangible capital in production has reduced the demand for physical capital. Nevertheless, for the US, the literature has identified the increase in market concentration as the biggest factor responsible for the reduction in the overall demand for capital. Digital innovation has led to the creation of champion firms that have captured big market shares and have been able to prevent others from entering not only the US market, but markets globally. This has dampened investment. Europe is affected by US digital dominance, but other factors, including aging and increased risk, are more prominent in sustaining the downward pressure on interest rates. In particular, the lack of risk capital, in the context of capital markets, contributes to this downward pressure in the EU. As the knowledge economy relies increasingly on intangible capital, a bank-based system that requires collateral is not well suited to finance investments. A lack of suitable finance will remain an important factor in the downward pressure on interest rates. The structural factors behind the downward pressure on interest rates imply that macroeconomic policy will have a reduced role in managing aggregate demand. Monetary policy in the euro area will be more about preventing financial fragmentation and less about stimulating demand. Equally, fiscal policy will have more of a supporting rather than stimulating role. Tackling the structural decline in market dynamism and therefore in real rates will require structural policies to reduce market power globally and ensure the creation of capital markets in the EU.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Governance, European Union, Finance, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America