Triggering the low-carbon transition in the aftermath of the global financial crisis

Hourcade, Jean-Charles; Shukla, Priyadarshi
March 2013
Climate Policy (Earthscan);Mar2013 Supplement, Vol. 13, p22
Academic Journal
An assessment of the post-Kyoto climate change negotiations, and the altered role of climate finance post-financial crisis, is presented. First, the paradigm shift of the Cancun Agreements is examined from an historical perspective and it is shown that the impasse in the negotiations, caused by the underlying over-emphasis on burden sharing reductions in emissions, can be overcome. Second, using information from two modelling exercises, it is demonstrated how climate finance can encourage the decoupling of carbon emissions from economic growth and thereby help align the development pattern with global climate goals. Third, a framework to place carbon finance within current discussions is sketched regarding both the reformation of the world financial systems and the facilitation of a sustainable economic recovery that is beneficial for North and South while addressing the low-carbon transition. It is concluded that upgrading climate finance is the key to triggering the shift to a low-carbon society and a system is proposed in which an agreed social cost of carbon is used to support the establishment of carbon emissions certificates to reorient a significant portion of global savings towards low-carbon investments. Policy relevance Investments that align development and climate objectives are shown to substantially lower the social cost of carbon and deliver long-term carbon emissions reductions. These reductions are greater than those contributed by the sole carbon price signal generated by a world cap-and-trade system. Carbon finance, as a part of the broader reform of financial systems and overseas aid, can help overcome the dual adversity of climate and financial crisis contexts. The carbon certificate, with an upfront agreed social cost of carbon, can be used as its instrument. The portion of the banking system that intends to reorient a significant part of world savings towards low-carbon investments could thus issue such carbon certificates. By giving carbon assets the status of a reserve currency, the system could even respond to the need of emerging countries to diversify their foreign exchange reserves and trigger a wave of worldwide sustainable growth through infrastructure markets.


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