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Carbon pricing and deep decarbonisation

Tvinnereim, Endre and Mehling, Michael (2018) Carbon pricing and deep decarbonisation. Energy Policy, 121. pp. 185-189. ISSN 0301-4215

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    Experts frequently point to carbon pricing as the most cost-effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Empirical studies show that carbon pricing can successfully incentivise incremental emissions reductions. But meeting temperature targets within defined timelines as agreed under the Paris Agreement requires more than incremental improvements: it requires achieving net zero emissions within a few decades. To date, there is little evidence that carbon pricing has produced deep emission reductions, even at high prices. While much steeper carbon prices may deliver greater abatement, political economy constraints render their feasibility doubtful. An approach with multiple instruments, including technology mandates and targeted support for innovation, is indispensable to avoid path dependencies and lock-in of long-lived, high-carbon assets. We argue that carbon pricing serves several important purposes in such an instrument mix, but also that the global commitment to deep decarbonisation requires acknowledging the vital role of instruments other than carbon pricing.