Center for Clean Energy Innovation Proposes New Approach to Global Climate

May 28th, 2014 | By | Category: Development and Climate Change, Energy, News, UNFCCC

The world faces two often contradictory energy challenges: mitigating global climate change and expanding affordable energy access in low-income countries. Unfortunately, the dominant approaches to international climate policies, including carbon targets and pricing, regulatory mandates, and subsidies for deployment, have failed to achieve either goal. Carbon emissions have grown faster since 2000 than in the preceding three decades, and no nation has been willing to pay the higher price of switching extensively to clean energy. Despite mounting evidence that the status quo will fall woefully short in addressing climate change, the lead up to the next round of international climate negotiations, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Paris in 2015, indicates that future global climate policy is in danger of continuing to rely on the tried-and-failed approaches of the previous two decades.

Beyond 2015: An Innovation-Based Framework for Global Climate Policy, a report by the Center for Clean Energy Innovation (CCEI), proposes a fundamentally new international energy innovation policy framework designed to decarbonize the global energy market by making clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels without subsidies. The report proposes a series of reforms to be considered for the new international climate agreement scheduled for completion at the Paris talks as well as innovation-based recommendations for the United Nations, World Bank, International Energy Agency, and individual countries aiming to address climate change.

“The 2015 climate talks offer a unique–and some would say final–opportunity to create a pragmatic, realistic and high-impact global agreement to address climate change,” says Matthew Stepp, executive director of CCEI and co-author of the report. “The objective of international climate policy has been to set unenforceable carbon emission targets while propping up more expensive clean energy technologies with subsidies to encourage their adoption. It’s not working. It’s time for a fundamentally new approach that directly attacks the core problem: making clean energy more affordable than fossil fuels through innovation.”

Unfortunately, an overemphasis on carbon targets, pricing, mandates, and deployment subsidies has left few resources to support a dedicated innovation strategy. The world underinvests in clean energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) by at least $70 billion a year or 13 percent what it spends on fossil fuel subsidies and 27 percent of clean energy deployment subsidies.

The report authors argue that aggressively filling this gap as well as strengthening the global energy innovation ecosystem is what will make-or-break the world’s chances to address climate change. This includes creating an international climate agreement that includes the the following:

High-income and emerging countries should have the option to commit to international carbon agreements not just by agreeing to emissions targets, but instead by committing to expanding clean energy RD&D to an agreed-upon share of GDP.

High-income countries should adopt “revenue-raising” policies to support clean energy innovation, including a modest carbon tax, raising oil and gas drilling fees, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

The UN, the World Bank, and climate financing mechanisms like the Clean Technology Fund should shift a portion of their investment portfolios from energy efficiency and deployment of existing clean technologies to large-scale demonstration and performance-based deployment projects of transformational energy technologies.

Countries, the UN, and the World Bank should aggressively combat “green mercantilist policies,” including tariffs and compulsory licensing, which artificially boost domestic existing clean energy technologies at the expense of global clean energy innovation.

Low-income countries should partner with development organizations to facilitate low-carbon technology leapfrogging to address energy access issues when clean energy is more affordable than fossil fuels.

The UN should redefine “modern energy access” to the equivalent of what high-income countries benefit from today, sending a signal that much more effort and innovation is needed to advance solutions for global energy poverty.

“Climate change and energy access are two of the biggest technology challenges of our time,” Stepp adds. “But we need to be realistic about the scale and barriers to solving these challenges. We won’t solve either by wishing a low-carbon energy transformation into existence through carbon targets or by hoping that governments will perpetually support the deployment of more expensive clean energy. Only a dedicated and aggressive focus on innovation will bring about a low-carbon, prosperous, and equitable global energy system.”

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