climate and energy policy
If the Energy [R]evolution is to happen, then governments around the world need to play a major part. Their contribution will include regulating the energy market, both on the supply and demand side, educating everyone from consumers to industrialists, and stimulating the market for renewable energy and energy efficiency by a range of economic mechanisms. They can also build on the successful policies already adopted by other countries.
To start with they need to agree on further binding emission reduction commitments in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Only by setting stringent greenhouse gas emission reduction targets will the cost of carbon become sufficiently high to properly reflect its impact on society. This will in turn stimulate investments in renewable energy. Through massive funding for mitigation and technology cooperation, industrialised countries will also stimulate the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries.
Alongside these measures specific support for the introduction of feed-in tariffs in the developing world - the extra costs of which could be funded by industrialised countries - could create similar incentives to those in countries like Germany and Spain, where the growth of renewable energy has boomed. Energy efficiency measures should be more strongly supported through the Kyoto process and its financial mechanisms.
Carbon markets can also play a distinctive role in making the Energy [R]evolution happen, although the functioning of the carbon market needs a thorough revision in order to ensure that the price of carbon is sufficiently high to reflect its real cost. Only then can we create a level playing field for renewable energy and be able to calculate the economic benefits of energy efficiency.
Industrialised countries should ensure that all financial flows to energy projects in developing countries are targeted towards renewable energy and energy efficiency. All financial assistance, whether through grants, loans or trade guarantees, directed towards supporting fossil fuel and nuclear power production, should be phased out in the next two to five years. International financial institutions, export credit agencies and development agencies should provide the required finance and infrastructure to create systems and networks to deliver the seed capital, institutional support and capacity to facilitate the implementation of the Energy [R]evolution in developing countries.
While all energy policies need to be adapted to the local situation, we are proposing the following policies to encourage the Energy [R]evolution that all countries should adopt:
10.1 climate policy
Policies to limit the effects of climate change and move towards a renewable energy future must be based on penalising energy sources that contribute to global pollution.
Action: Phase out subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear power production and inefficient energy use
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates (August 2008) the annual bill for worldwide energy subsidies at about $300 billion, or 0.7% of global GDP43. Approximately 80% of this is spent on funding fossil fuels and more than 10% to support nuclear energy. The lion’s share is used to artificially lower the real price of fossil fuels. Subsidies (including loan guarantees) make energy efficiency less attractive, keep renewable energy out of the market place and prop up non-competitive and inefficient technologies.
Eliminating direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear power would help move us towards a level playing field across the energy sector. Scrapping these payments would, according to UNEP, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 6% a year, while contributing 0.1% to global GDP. Many of these seemingly well intentioned subsidies rarely make economic sense anyway, and hardly ever address poverty, thereby challenging the widely held view that such subsidies assist the poor.
Instead, governments should use subsidies to stimulate investment in energy-saving measures and the deployment of renewable energy by reducing their investment costs. Such support could include grants, favourable loans and fiscal incentives such as reduced taxes on energy efficient equipment, accelerated depreciation, tax credits and tax deductions.
The G20 countries, meeting in Philadelphia in September 2009, called for world leaders to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, but hardly any progress has been made since then towards implementing the resolution.
Action: Introduce the “polluter pays” principle A substantial indirect form of subsidy comes from the fact that the energy market does not incorporate the external, societal costs of the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Pricing structures in the energy markets should reflect the full costs to society of producing energy.
This requires that governments apply a ‘polluter pays’ system that charges the emitters accordingly, or applies suitable compensation to non-emitters. Adoption of ‘polluter pays’ taxation to electricity sources, or equivalent compensation to renewable energy sources, and exclusion of renewables from environment-related energy taxation, is essential to achieve fairer competition in the world’s electricity markets.