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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: Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen, Ole Winckler Andersen
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Development assistance for new renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly being used to mobilise additional private capital. Recipient countries do not always share the priorities of donors. Realism and long-term support are key. RECOMMENDATIONS: Continue funding, but also acknowledge different interests and objectives, in order to move new renewable energy to scale. Balance the support for market development with support to government entities. Support longer-term capacity-building to ensure energy sector sustainability in recipient countries. Adopt flexible approaches and ensure independent advice to governments and institutions.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Foreign Aid, Renewable Energy
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Denmark, Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Author: Wouter Zweers, Giulia Cretti, Kristina Naunova
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: With the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, the 2050 climate neutrality goal of the European Union has been extended to the six countries in South-Eastern Europe that aspire to join the Union. The Green Agenda is a promising tool for fostering climate and energy policy measures in the Western Balkans, a region with high vulnerability to climate change risks and little energy diversification away from coal. But could the Green Agenda also be a catalyst for renewed interest and enhanced political engagement, leading to a much-needed impetus to the EU enlargement process? This policy brief asks how the Green Agenda can work in the interest of both the objective of a climate neutral continent and the EU accession of the Western Balkan countries.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, European Union, Diversification
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Felix Bierbrauer, Gabriel Felbermayr, Axel Ockenfels, Klaus M. Schmidt, Jens Sudekum
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: The EU steps up its efforts to curb its territorial CO2-emissions. It is planning to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) to level the playing field and to raise own resources. The authors point out that unilateral European climate policy action, whether shored up with a CBAM or not, can only play a limited role in reducing global CO2-emissions. A EU-CBAM cannot stop indirect leakage, it has ambiguous effects on other countries’ mitigation efforts, and it poses the risk of conflicts with trade partners. They propose that the EU, together with the US and other like-minded countries, should push hard to establish a climate club with a common minimum price of CO2 and a common CBAM applied to third countries. Such a framework would incentivize other countries to join while limiting leakage and reducing the risk of trade policy disputes.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jussi Lassila, Marco Siddi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia’s role in international climate policy is central. Russia is the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide and has vast potential for developing renewable energy. However, its fossil fuel-based economy and the legitimacy it creates for the Kremlin make climate action inherently difficult. Thanks to the growing politicization of environmental issues, the relevance of climate change may increase in the Russian public debate. The effects of climate change, such as melting permafrost and the Siberian forest fires, could catalyze this process. Climate-sceptical populism may sometimes feature in the rhetoric of the political elite, but its proliferation in society is unlikely. Most Russians are concerned about climate change, even if less so than Western Europeans. However, Russia’s decision-making on climate policy is highly centralized, with little or no input from civil society actors. The energy transition in Europe can eventually deprive Russia of its main market for fossil fuel exports, but it also creates new prospects for cooperation in green energy development.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Climate Change, Environment, Carbon Emissions, Decarbonization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Lauri Tahtinen
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Increased deforestation in the Amazon is the outcome of Brazil’s long political crisis. What started in 2013 with a bus fare hike has traversed through contestable impeachment and populist uprising into a constitutional stalemate. European institutional investors have been in the vanguard of checking Brasília’s lax approach to deforestation and other environmental challenges. While investors continue to carry a big stick, European and US political leadership should consider what carrots they can offer Brasília. Brussels and Washington have changed course rapidly from an approach that emphasised closer ties with Brasília to one of dissatisfaction and distancing. This is both a cause and an effect of Brazil’s international standing diminishing both in terms of economy and country brand. In recent years, Brazil has simultaneously tried to raze more rainforest and build North Atlantic trading relations; the two cannot be done at the same time. A politics of rapprochement with Brazil requires much closer coordination between Europe and the United States than the parties are accustomed to; a commitment to a climate-sensitive globalisation is necessary from Brasília.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Globalization, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Brazil, South America, North America