BIEE 2013 Seminar Programme on Energy Policy and Climate Change Issues

The 2013 programme of Parker seminars is intended to reflect the observation that policy formulation in relation to climate change, both nationally and globally is at a critical juncture. Particular concerns are:

  • the increasingly evident disconnection between projections based on a science based imperative, on the one hand, and “business as usual” or even “modified business as usual”, on the other.
  • the very limited progress in international negotiations, at Durban and subsequently.
  • in consequence, an increasing scepticism over whether 2o C targets remain a realistic objective, implicitly raising the question of what might take their place.

A number of factors in combination make the issues of global climate uniquely challenging:

  • residual uncertainty over fundamentals,  and limited public and political consensus
  •  the central and pervasive importance of energy to modern economies
  • the cumulative and largely irreversible nature of CO2 emissions in particular
  • long time lags between cause and consequences
  • intrinsic dependence on global action to tackle a global externality
  • strong vested interests, and conflict with other short or medium term policy objectives
  • the limitations of existing political institutions, national and international, in achieving effective concerted action

The seminar/ workshop programme is intended to inform and encourage discussion among energy economists and others on a wide range of issues relevant to these concerns.  The subjects remain very topical; in the UK, progress towards EMR and future carbon budget decisions, and the impact of the new Energy Bill, remain very much on the agenda.

The programme is designed to address a range of questions, starting with today’s reviews of the science and economic/ strategic backdrop, with later seminars turning to international developments, and a range of general policy questions.  These will include inter alia investment issues, the effectiveness of alternative policy instruments, and the respective roles of governments and markets. Economists may also wish to review and discuss the relevance of conventional techniques and conventional assumptions of policy analysis, such as cost-benefit, decision theory and discounting, in this context.

We currently envisage a programme of five half-day events, and the possibility of a sixth to review ideas generated in the earlier seminars. Demarcation of discussion between sessions will necessarily be flexible as many of the important topics recur in several contexts, but the outline is set out overleaf with preliminary dates for later meetings.

BIEE seminars are held under Chatham House rules.

SEMINAR  1.   19th February.  Science and the Validity of an Economic Case for Action On Emissions.

This session is intended primarily to frame the discussions over the programme as a whole, by seeking a coherent view of what the best available science is currently telling us, and setting this, implicitly at least, within a reasoned justification for courses of action on emissions reduction.

SEMINAR  2.     24th April   Global Agreements?  National  and  Regional  Policies.

Many people would welcome a better understanding of the negotiating and diplomatic perspective on  energy and climate related issues. However , quite apart from any formal climate negotiations,  it may be as or more important to examine what is happening within the major regions/ countries who will determine the future.  We hope to be able to examine some of the policies being followed in larger entities such as the US, EU and China.  Economists have proposed border taxes as a contribution to a global framework.  How might these issues sit in relation to trade and the WTO?

SEMINAR  3.  19th June*. Policy Instruments.

The persistent debate over the relative merits of and emphasis on supply side and demand side policies, including the Jeavons paradox of energy efficiency.   The effectiveness of pricing policy as an instrument and its political viability.  The role and nature of effective regulation. Regulation versus prices/ markets.

SEMINAR  4   9th October*. Policy Imperative Vs Business As Usual; Investment.

The scale of investment demanded by decarbonisation is huge, but (arguably) capital has rarely been so plentiful or cheap.  How do we appraise investments in this environment, and within a public policy context? What is the requirement for government commitment to, or underwriting of, decarbonisation investment, and what are the implications for markets?  Is there a risk of stranded assets?   The macro-economic situation provides an important backdrop to this discussion.  This is particularly so in relation to capital availability and interest rates, and the feasibility of large scale investment within an environment of prolonged austerity.

SEMINAR  5 .  20th November*. Problems of Unilateral Action.

Bringing the discussion back to national players and energy policy specifics. When do unilateral policies, eg at UK or EU level, have a perverse or negative effect either on national welfare or competitiveness, or on the global effectiveness of carbon policies?  And how can governments maintain political impetus and reconcile with other policy objectives?

A meeting report from the first seminar   can be downloaded  from the meeting archive.  The  second seminar will take place on April 24th at the Royal Society. You can register to attend on the meetings page.

*provisional dates

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