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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: 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: 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: Mark Leonard, Jeremy Shapiro, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Simone Tagliapietra, Guntram B. Wolff
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The European Green Deal is a plan to decarbonise the EU economy by 2050, revolutionise the EU’s energy system, profoundly transform the economy and inspire efforts to combat climate change. But the plan will also have profound geopolitical repercussions. The Green Deal will affect geopolitics through its impact on the EU energy balance and global markets; on oil and gas-producing countries in the EU neighbourhood; on European energy security; and on global trade patterns, notably via the carbon border adjustment mechanism. At least some of these changes are likely to impact partner countries adversely. The EU needs to wake up to the consequences abroad of its domestic decisions. It should prepare to help manage the geopolitical aspects of the European Green Deal. Relationships with important neighbourhood countries such as Russia and Algeria, and with global players including the United States, China and Saudi Arabia, are central to this effort, which can be structured around seven actions: Help neighbouring oil and gas-exporting countries manage the repercussions of the European Green Deal. The EU should engage with these countries to foster their economic diversification, including into renewable energy and green hydrogen that could in the future be exported to Europe. Improve the security of critical raw materials supply and limit dependence, first and foremost on China. Essential measures include greater supply diversification, increased recycling volumes and substitution of critical materials. Work with the US and other partners to establish a ‘climate club’ whose members will apply similar carbon border adjustment measures. All countries, including China, would be welcome to join if they commit to abide by the club’s objectives and rules. Become a global standard-setter for the energy transition, particularly in hydrogen and green bonds. Requiring compliance with strict environmental regulations as a condition to access the EU market will be strong encouragement to go green for all countries. Internationalise the European Green Deal by mobilising the EU budget, the EU Recovery and Resilience Fund, and EU development policy. Promote global coalitions for climate change mitigation, for example through a global coalition for the permafrost, which would fund measures to contain the permafrost thaw. Promote a global platform on the new economics of climate action to share lessons learned and best practices.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Ben McWilliams, Simone Tagliapietra, Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: In the wake of COVID-19, some economic recovery policies will help green the economy – for example, energy renovation of buildings. But there are limits to the share of stimulus that can be explicitly green. The European Union should therefore also green the fiscal consolidation by setting out the path to much higher carbon prices than today. This would guide investment and provide revenues to help the fiscal consolidation.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Economy, Renewable Energy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julia Anderson, Simone Tagliapietra, Guntram B. Wolff
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: COVID-19 has triggered a severe recession and policymakers in European Union countries are providing generous, largely indiscriminate, support to companies. As the recession gets deeper, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. This should be based on four principles: viability of supported entities, fairness, achieving societal goals, and giving society a share in future profits. The effort should be structured around equity and recovery funds with borrowing at EU level.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Global Recession, European Union, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Ben McWilliams, Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The European Commission should not make the implementation of a carbon border adjustment mechanism into a must-have element of its climate policy. There is little in the way of strong empirical evidence that would justify a carbon-adjustment measure. Moreover, significant logistical, legal and political challenges will arise during the design. The EU should instead focus upon the implementation of measures to trigger the development of a competitive low-carbon industry in Europe.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Trade Policy, Carbon Tax
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Alienor Cameron, Gregory Claeys, Catarina Midoes, Simone Tagliapietra
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: On 14 January 2020, the European Commission published its proposal for a Just Transition Mechanism, intended to provide support to territories facing serious socioeconomic challenges related to the transition towards climate neutrality. This brief provides an overview and a critical assessment of the first pillar of this Mechanism, the Just Transition Fund (JTF).
  • Topic: Climate Change, Governance, Budget, European Union, Macroeconomics, Renewable Energy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Dion Bongaerts, Dirk Schoenmaker
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The market for green bonds is growing rapidly and has been boosted by the European Commission’s plan to raise through green bonds 30 percent of the up to €750 billion that will be borrowed under the Next Generation EU coronavirus economic recovery programme. But while green bonds can reduce the financing costs of green projects and technologies, their current design means they fall short of fulfilling their full potential. Issuing green bonds alongside regular bonds fragments bond issues, reducing liquidity and thus increasing financing costs. Moreover, green bond prices reflect liquidity, credit risk and environmental performance jointly, which makes it difficult to isolate the part of the return on the bonds that relates to environmental performance. We propose an alternative: issuance of regular bonds with attached green certificates that ensure earmarking for green purposes. The new design would lead to more liquid securities (as only regular bonds are issued), which would reduce financing costs and in turn would provide incentives to start a greater number of environmentally-friendly projects. The new design would also make market prices more informative about environmental performance. In addition, green certificates would address the criticism that green bonds are used mostly for refinancing existing green projects rather than for new projects. Sovereigns are among the largest issuers of bonds and are therefore natural candidates for implementation of green certificates. The European Commission could also issue regular bonds and green certificates to finance the European Union’s recovery package, and should include green certificates in the under-preparation EU Green Bond standard. Commission issuance of green certificates would give a major boost to EU bonds as liquid safe assets while promoting green investment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Finance, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Georg Zachmann
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: We argue that energy relations between the EU and Russia and between China and Russia influence each other. We analyse their interactions in terms of four areas: oil and gas trading, electricity exchanges, energy technology exports and energy investments. We discuss five key hypotheses that describe the likely developments in these four areas in the next decade and their potential impact on Europe: 1. There is no direct competition between the EU and China for Russian oil and gas 2. China and the EU both have an interest in curbing excessive Russian energy rents 3. The EU, Russia and China compete on the global energy technology market, but specialise in different technologies 4. Intercontinental electricity exchange is unlikely 5. Russia seems more worried about Chinese energy investments with strategic/political goals, than about EU investments We find no evidence of a negative spillover for the EU from the developing Russia-China energy relationship. But, eventually, if these risks – and in particular the risk of structural financial disintermediation – do materialise, central banks would have various instruments to counter them.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Oil, Europe Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe