Dirty little secrets: Inferring fossil-fuel subsidies from patterns in emission intensities
Radek Stefanski 30 May 2014
No comprehensive database of directly measured fossil-fuel subsidies exists at the international or the sub-national level, yet subsidies may be crucial drivers of global carbon emissions. This column describes a novel method for inferring carbon subsidies by examining country-specific patterns in carbon emission-to-output ratios, known as emission intensities. Calculations for 155 nations from 1980-2005 reveal that fossil-fuel price distortions are enormous, increasing, and often hidden. These subsidies contributed importantly to increasing emissions and lower growth.
An astonishing feature of international energy and climate policy is that fossil fuels – often seen as the primary contributor to climate change – receive enormous government support (IMF 2013, IEA 2012). Surprisingly, no comprehensive database of directly measured, comparable fossil-fuel subsidies exists at the international level. This is both because of political pressure from the direct beneficiaries of subsidies and because of the immense complexity of the task given the profusion and diversity of subsidy programmes across countries (Koplow 2009, OECD 2012).
energy, emissions, pollution, subsidies, fossil fuels, energy subsidy, carbon
Climate policy targets revisited
Richard S J Tol 25 April 2014
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates lower costs of climate change and higher costs of abatement than the Stern Review. However, current UN negotiations focus on stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at even lower levels than recommended by Stern. This column argues that, given realistic estimates of the rate at which people discount the future, the UN’s target is probably too stringent. Moreover, since real-world climate policy is far from the ideal of a uniform carbon price, the costs of emission reduction are likely to be much higher than the IPCC’s estimates.
The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change is the most famous economic assessment of climate policy (Stern et al. 2006). The Stern Review puts the costs of unmitigated climate change at 5–20% of GDP (now and forever), it estimates that the cost of stabilising atmospheric concentrations around 525 ppm CO2e are 1% of GDP (in 2050), and recommends that concentrations be stabilised around 500 ppm CO2e.1
climate change, emissions, externalities, greenhouse gases, pollution, carbon, cost-benefit analysis