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  • Author: Branimir Vidmarovic
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: As the globally difficult 2020 came to an end, China is entering a challenging and perilous period unlike any other in its long history. COVID-19 pandemic, widely believed to have originated in Chinese Wuhan, severely damaged China’s international image, especially among Western democracies. At the beginning of the millennium, Chinese policymakers reached a conclusion that favorable political and security environment presented China with a ‘strategic window of opportunity’ for the next 15 to 20 years, during which the country should strive to achieve its economic, social and security development goals. It was believed that at some point, the West would become wary and agitated by China’s rise – which would in turn lead to a shift towards less favorable conditions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Hegemony, Isolation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Krševan Antun Dujmović
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The general elections held in Montenegro on 30 August 2020 has once again drawn the attention of the Western Balkans to the smallest, measured by population, among seven nations that emerged after the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This attention is due to a number of factors. Back in May of 2018 Montenegro has opened the last of the thirty-three chapters in the negotiation process with the European Union, making it a harbinger among Western Balkans nations on the path to Euro-Atlantic integrations, especially as the country had joined the North Atlantic Alliance in June 2017. Other countries in the region linger behind Montenegro – Albania and North Macedonia, both NATO members, are still waiting for the opening of the negotiations with the EU. Serbia has no intention to join NATO, and in spite of EU negotiations and ambitions, sees itself in balance between the West on one side, and Russia and China on the other. Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are far from NATO membership and have merely the status of potential candidates for EU membership. This is why all eyes of the region and of the advocates of continuation of EU enragement policy are on Montenegro. The second factor are strong historical ties of this country on the Adriatic coast with its northern neighbor Serbia. Serbian minority makes up to one third of Montenegro’s population, and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC- Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva) plays a vital role in Montenegrin society, as this country does not have its own autocephalous Church recognized by other Orthodox Churches in Eastern Christendom. This gives Serbia and the SPC a significant clout within borders of its southern neighbor. The third factor is the involvement of global players in this country. The United Sates has advocated strongly to include Montenegro in NATO in order to stretch the line of NATO’s southern flank in the Northern Mediterranean from the Iberian Peninsula to the west to Greece and Turkey in the east. On the other hand, Montenegro’s authorities accused Russia of meddling in the general elections held in October 2016 when the alleged coup d’état occurred on the election day. Many feared a similar scenario on the eve of 30 August 2020 election, fathoming the outbreak of riots and violence that could ignite the powder keg in the Balkans. Although none of these happened, Montenegro is not ceasing to be the subject of the geopolitical chessboard. Considering these factors, the attention of neighbors to the events in this Balkan country is understandable. The unfolding situation after the elections in which the government of Montenegro is backed by a very thin majority in the Parliament (Skupština Crne Gore) and with no clear vision nor strategy for further political and economic development of the country, is only fueling the wariness of its neighbors and of Brussels about Montenegro as a success story.
  • Topic: NATO, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Elections, European Union, Transition
  • Political Geography: Europe, Balkans, Montenegro
  • Author: Ingrid Ott, Ivan Savin, Chris Konop
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: Taking robotic patents between 1977 and 2017 and building upon the topic modeling technique, we extract their latent topics, analyze how important these topics are over time, and how they are related to each other looking at how often they are recombined in the same patents. This allows us to differentiate between more and less important technological trends in robotics based on their stage of diffusion and position in the space of knowledge, where some topics appear isolated while others are highly interconnected. Furthermore, we propose a novel approach to match the constructed topics to the IFR classification of service robots based on frequency and exclusivity of words overlapping between them. We identify around 20 topics belonging to service robotics. Our results corroborate earlier findings, but also provide novel insights on the content and stage of development of application areas in service robotics. With this study we contribute to a better understanding of the highly dynamic field of robotics and contribute to new practices of utilizing the topic modeling approach.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Science and Technology, Robotics, Models
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Gemma Dipoppa, Guy Grossman, Stephanie Zonszein
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC)
  • Abstract: Covid-19 caused a significant health and economic crisis, a condition identified as conducive to stigmatization and hateful behavior against minority groups. It is however unclear whether the threat of infection triggers violence in addition to stigmatization, and whether a violent reaction can happen at the onset of an unexpected economic shock before social hierarchies can be disrupted. Using a novel database of hate crimes across Italy, we show that (i) hate crimes against Asians increased substantially at the pandemic onset, and that (ii) the increase was concentrated in cities with higher expected unemployment, but not higher mortality. We then examine individual, local and national mobilization as mechanisms. We find that (iii) local far-right institutions motivate hate crimes, while we find no support for the role of individual prejudice and national discourse. Our study identifies new conditions triggering hateful behavior, advancing our understanding of factors hindering migrant integration.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Minorities, Violence, Far Right, Hate Speech, COVID-19, Racism, Hate Groups
  • Political Geography: United States, Italy, Global Focus
  • Author: Varun Sivaram, Matt Bowen, Noah Kaufman, Doug Rand
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: President-elect Joe Biden has called climate change one of the four most important crises facing the country and pledged ambitious climate action.[1] At the heart of his strategy to slash US and global emissions is a focus on developing new and improved technologies to make clean energy transitions more affordable. During the campaign, Biden pledged a “historic investment in clean energy innovation.”[2] Indeed, boosting funding for energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) is widely popular among both Republicans and Democrats and represents a rare legislative opportunity for advancing climate policy under a razor-thin Democratic majority in Congress.[3] In December 2020, Congress passed the most sweeping energy legislation in a decade, attached to the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, and authorized boosting clean energy RD&D funding.[4] Yet such investments alone may not be sufficient to successfully commercialize critical clean energy technologies. Today’s energy industry presents daunting barriers that impede the swift adoption of newer, cleaner technologies. As a result, the private sector underinvests in scaling up promising technologies and building out clean energy infrastructure.[5] Therefore, in addition to funding energy RD&D (“technology-push” policies), government policies should bolster market demand for clean energy to encourage private investors and firms to scale up and commercialize new technologies (“demand-pull” policies). Still, there are steep political obstacles in the way of many ambitious demand-pull policies. For example, President-elect Biden has called for economywide measures such as a clean electricity standard and $400 billion of public procurement of clean products such as electric vehicles.[6] These policies would create large markets for mass deployment of clean energy and speed a clean energy transition. But enacting them requires substantial new regulations and appropriations from Congress, a challenging feat even given the new Democratic control of both chambers of Congress. Fortunately, there is a set of targeted demand-pull measures that the Biden administration can immediately use—with existing statutory authority and without requiring massive new appropriations—to create early markets for promising clean energy technologies. These measures, which we call “demand-pull innovation policies,” fill a niche between RD&D investments that create new technology options and policies that support the large-scale deployment of clean energy. Demand-pull innovation policies focus narrowly on creating and shaping early markets for emerging technologies. For example, targeted government procurement, prize competitions, or milestone payments can provide early markets for clean energy technologies that have been developed with the aid of public RD&D funding. The government can also coordinate private procurement or otherwise catalyze private market adoption through certification and standard-setting processes. Such demand-pull innovation policies have extremely high leverage and have transformed limited public investment into flourishing private commercial markets across the space, medical, and energy fields.[7] Coherently pursuing demand-pull innovation policies will require coordination across the federal government. To this end, the incoming Biden administration should consider creating a new government office, the Energy Technology Markets Office (ETMO), to spearhead the scale-up and commercialization of promising clean energy technologies. The ETMO could be housed within the Department of Energy (DOE) to take advantage of the DOE’s deep expertise in energy technologies and markets. Indeed, in the recently passed Energy Act of 2020 (Division Z of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021), Congress directed the DOE to build its capabilities to pursue demand-pull innovation policies.[8] In the same legislation, Congress also authorized the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, which could alternatively lead the demand-pull innovation agenda. Regardless of whether the administration creates a new office or augments an existing one, in order to maximize their potential impact, demand-pull innovation policies should not be the domain of only the DOE. Rather, the DOE should collaborate with a range of federal agencies—many of which, such as the Department of Defense, have sizable resources to invest in emerging technology procurement—to enact policies and pursue public-private partnerships to build market demand for the innovations critical to decarbonization. In concert with new RD&D investments in clean energy innovation, demand-pull innovation policies could be a powerful tool to speed the adoption of new technologies and cultivate advanced energy industries that can manufacture and export US innovations.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Science and Technology, Green Technology, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Matt Bowen
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: Nuclear power is considered in many countries a critical facet to maintaining reliable access to electricity during a global transition to low-carbon energy sources. One challenge to its potential in the United States, however, is the current standstill regarding a disposal pathway for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from commercial reactors. This impasse has a negative bearing on nuclear energy’s ability to supply more zero-carbon electricity and may cost US taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in government liability for failing to meet contractual obligations to take possession of the waste from utilities. Despite the scientific community assessing that commercial SNF and other high-level radioactive waste (HLW), such as from defense activities, can be safely isolated in deep underground repositories, US efforts to license and operate one have flatlined. The original plan for siting at least two repositories for such waste was abandoned first by DOE and then by Congress. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was designated in law as the nation’s sole potential disposal site by Congress in 1987, fomenting the state’s opposition to the project. As a result of that opposition, Congress has not funded the project since 2010. Still, progress has been made over the last few decades in nuclear waste disposal programs in countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Canada. And the United States has seen the successful opening and operation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico to dispose of generally less radioactive but long-lived transuranic nuclear waste from defense activities. Such programs offer insights for how the United States can try to resolve the challenges with commercial nuclear waste disposal and potentially alleviate one obstacle to wider adoption of nuclear energy to decarbonize the US economy. This report, part of wider work on nuclear energy at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, explains how the United States reached its current stalemate over nuclear waste disposal. It then examines productive approaches in other countries and a few domestic ones that could guide US policy makers through options for improving the prospects of SNF and HLW disposal going forward
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Nuclear Power, Nuclear Waste
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In order to decarbonize the US economy at a reasonable cost and on an accelerated timeline, the country needs to both grow and rapidly decarbonize the power sector. This process will require many new technologies that support an affordable, equitable, and achievable transition. Expanding the clean-electricity focus beyond variable renewable technologies to include other types of zero-carbon power—as well as investing in the transmission and distribution grid that delivers this power to communities around the country—will allow the US to build a reliable, secure, and sustainable zero-carbon power system.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Renewable Energy, Carbon Emissions
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: James Kobus, Ali Narshallah, Jim Guidera
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), Columbia University
  • Abstract: In recent years, many of the world’s biggest corporations, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, have pledged to power their businesses with increasing amounts of renewable energy in order to reduce their carbon footprints and contribute to efforts to address climate change. Such efforts have had an encouraging impact on US power sector decarbonization, with a material and increasing share of US wind and solar deployments now driven by the procurement preferences of corporate customers. The vast majority of corporate procurement of renewable energy has been secured via power purchase agreements (PPAs). Going forward, a wider universe of companies is expected to look to such PPA agreements as a means of contributing to a low-carbon future, raising the question of how substantial these initiatives might be in supporting the overall transition to zero-carbon electricity. Indeed, a number of positive underlying trends are likely to facilitate continued growth in the corporate renewables PPA market. For example, electricity demand in the technology sector continues to grow rapidly, while renewables PPA penetration in the commercial and industrial sectors more broadly remains low, with room to grow. Additionally, expectations of continued declines in the costs of solar and wind technologies are likely to facilitate more procurement. Lastly, US companies are facing increased pressure from customers, employees, and institutional investors to improve their greenhouse gas emissions profiles. At the same time, certain factors may constrain the size of the PPA market, such as market regulations that limit the feasibility of PPAs in certain regions and the need for renewable PPA prices to be competitive relative to wholesale power prices. Scale and creditworthiness requirements can also limit the universe of potential corporate buyers, and the financial risks brought about when signing long-term contracts may further deter some market participants. Finally, companies increasingly have alternative emission reduction mechanisms at their disposal, such as renewables energy credits (RECs), carbon offsets, and green tariff programs. This student-led paper, from the Power Sector and Renewables Research Initiative at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, explores the drivers influencing the renewables PPA market and assesses whether these procurement initiatives by nonutility corporations are likely to continue growing in the United States at a rapid enough pace to support power sector deep decarbonization goals. The analysis finds that while robust private sector participation in recent years has been encouraging, the potential market size going forward may be smaller than previously projected, highlighting the need for comprehensive policy frameworks to support power sector decarbonization.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Renewable Energy, Wind Power, Solar Power
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Theo Rauch, Michael Brüntrup
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: There is a widely held consensus that it will not be possible to feed the world without the help of the smallholders of Africa, Latin America and Asia, who number up to 570 million farms or 2 billion people. Given the sheer size of this figure alone, the sustainable development of smallholder farming will be key to achieving a range of other sustainability goals.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Global South
  • Author: Katharina Krings, Jakob Schwab
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: German Development Institute (DIE)
  • Abstract: While blockchain technology (BT) has gained a great deal of publicity for its use in cryptocurrencies, another area of BT application has emerged away from the public eye, namely supply chains. Due to the increasing fragmentation and globalisation of supply chains in recent years, many products have to pass through countless production steps worldwide (from raw material extraction to the point of sale). Ensuring the quality and sustainability of production in preceding steps is a major challenge for many firms and thus, ultimately, also for the consumer. BT offers potential for achieving significant progress on this front. Put simply, the blockchain makes it possible to verify data decentralised within a network, store it in a tamper-proof and traceable format and make it accessible to all members of a network.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Cryptocurrencies, Sustainability, Blockchain
  • Political Geography: Global Focus