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A practitioner's guide to a low-carbon economy: lessons from the UK

Fankhauser, Samuel (2013) A practitioner's guide to a low-carbon economy: lessons from the UK. Climate Policy, 13 (3). pp. 345-362. ISSN 1469-3062

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Identification Number: 10.1080/14693062.2013.749124

Abstract

Drawing primarily on the UK experience, five practical lessons are identified for policy makers who seek to decarbonize their economies. First, decarbonization needs a solid legal basis to give it credibility and overcome time inconsistency problems. Second, putting a price on carbon is essential, but low-carbon policies also have to address wider market, investment, and behavioural failures. This in turn raises issues of policy complexity and coordination. Third, the low-carbon economy is likely to be highly electrified. Clean electricity could be a cost-effective way of decarbonizing many parts of the economy, including transport, heating, and parts of industry. Decarbonization therefore starts in the power sector. Fourth, the low-carbon transition is primarily a revolution of production and not consumption. Both supply-side innovation and demand-side adjustments in lifestyle and behaviour are needed, though the former should dominate. Fifth, the transition to a low-carbon economy is economically and technologically feasible. Achieving it is a question of policy competence and having the political will to drive economic and social change. Policy relevance Practically all major GHG emitters now have climate change legislation on their statute books. Given what is at stake, and the complexity of the task at hand, it is important that policy makers learn from each other and establish a code of good low-carbon practice. The main lessons from the UK are distilled and presented. Carbon policy is considered for key sectors, such as electricity, buildings, and transport, and possible decarbonization paths are also outlined. It is shown that the transition to a low-carbon economy is economically and technologically feasible. Achieving it is primarily a question of policy competence and political will. This in turn means that climate change action needs a strong legislative basis to give the reforms statutory legitimacy. Low-carbon policies will have to address a wide range of market, investment and behavioural failures. Putting a price on carbon is an essential starting point, but only one of many policy reforms.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tcpo20
Additional Information: © 2012 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Divisions: Grantham Research Institute
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Sets: Research centres and groups > Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Date Deposited: 02 Jan 2013 11:17
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2019 01:40
Funders: Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Economic and Social Research Council, Munich Re
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/47832

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