The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is broadly viewed as the world’s most legitimate scientific assessment body that periodically assesses the economics of climate change (among many other topics) for policy audiences. However, growing procedural inefficiencies and limitations to substantive coverage have made the IPCC an increasingly unattractive forum for the most qualified climate economists. Drawing on our observations and personal experience working on the most recent IPCC report, published last year, we propose four reforms to the IPCC’s process that we believe will lower the cost for volunteering as an IPCC author: improving interactions between governments and academics, making IPCC operations more efficient, clarifying and strengthening conflict of interest rules, and expanding outreach. We also propose three reforms to the IPCC’s substantive coverage to clarify the IPCC’s role and to make participation as an author more intellectually rewarding: complementing the IPCC with other initiatives, improving the integration of economics with other disciplines, and providing complete data for policymakers to make decisions. Despite the distinct characteristics of the IPCC that create challenges for authors unlike those in any other review body, we continue to believe in the importance of the IPCC for providing the most visible line of public communication between the scholarly community and policymakers.
I returned from a brief trip to Paris two days before the horrific events of November 13, which shocked and saddened civilised people everywhere. I was in Paris for discussions regarding climate change…
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has proven its value as an institution for large-scale scientific collaboration to synthesize and assess large volumes of climate research for use by policy-makers, as well as for establishing credibility of findings among diverse national governments. But the IPCC has received considerable criticism of both its substance and process. The new IPCC leadership to be elected in October could help guide the IPCC to a clear, shared understanding of future objectives and could shape procedural reforms. We identify key opportunities for reform by addressing two related questions: Is the IPCC doing the right things? Is the IPCC doing things right?
The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action negotiations are likely to lead to a Paris outcome that embodies a hybrid climate policy architecture, combining top-down elements, such as for monitoring, reporting, and verification, with bottom-up elements, including ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ from participating countries, detailing plans to reduce emissions, based on national circumstances. For such a system to be cost-effective – and thus more likely to embody greater ambition – a key feature will be linkages among regional, national, and sub-national climate policies. By linkage, we mean formal recognition by a mitigation programme in one jurisdiction of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for the purposes of complying with the first jurisdiction's requirements. The Paris outcome could play at least four different roles with respect to linkage of heterogeneous policy instruments. First, it could discourage linkage, either by not allowing countries to count international transfers toward their mitigation contributions, or by limiting the number or types of transferred units that can be counted for compliance purposes. Second, it could be silent on the topic of linkage, creating legal and regulatory uncertainty about whether international transfers are allowed. Third, it could expressly authorize linkage but not provide any further details about how linkage should occur, leaving it to future United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiating sessions to work out the details or to national governments to develop bilateral or multilateral linkage arrangements. Finally, the Paris outcome could establish institutional arrangements and rules that facilitate and promote linkage. We examine how a future international policy architecture could help facilitate the growth and operation of a robust system of international linkages. Several design elements merit serious consideration for inclusion in the Paris outcome, either in the core agreement or by establishing a process for subsequent international elaboration. At the same time, including detailed linkage rules in the core agreement is not desirable because this could make it difficult for rules to evolve in light of experience.Policy relevanceThese findings have implications for the efficient and effective design of an international climate policy architecture by detailing the role that linkage can play in supporting heterogeneous climate policies at the regional, national, and sub-national levels.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, December 14th last year, climate negotiators in Lima, Peru concluded the COP-20 talks with an agreement among 195 countries. The Lima Call for Climate Action, or Lima…
Energy-efficient technologies offer considerable promise for reducing the financial costs and environmental damages associated with energy use, but these technologies appear not to be adopted by consumers and businesses to the degree that would apparently be justified, even on a purely financial basis. We present two complementary frameworks for understanding this so-called “energy paradox” or “energy-efficiency gap.” First, we build on the previous literature by dividing potential explanations for the energy-efficiency gap into three categories: market failures, behavioral anomalies, and model and measurement errors. Second, we posit that it is useful to think in terms of the fundamental elements of cost-minimizing energy-efficiency decisions. This provides a decomposition that organizes thinking around four questions. First, are product offerings and pricing economically efficient? Second, are energy operating costs inefficiently priced and/or understood? Third, are product choices cost-minimizing in present value terms? Fourth, do other costs inhibit more energy-efficient decisions? We review empirical evidence on these questions, with an emphasis on recent advances, and offer suggestions for future research.
On February 18-20, 2015, twenty-four experts gathered in Berlin to explore approaches to improving the process by which research on climate change is assessed – with a focus on the social-sciences (economics, political science, policy studies). The workshop was sponsored by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, and the Stanford Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis Center. Leaders of three of the sponsoring organizations, Carlo Carraro (FEEM), Charles Kolstad (Stanford University), and Robert Stavins (Harvard Kennedy School), have prepared a memorandum drawing from the workshop. The memo describes the specific challenges and opportunities facing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and provides recommendations for improving the IPCC's process of assessing scientific research on climate change.
Stavins, Robert, Ji Zou, Thomas Brewer, Mariana Conte Grand, Michel den Elzen, Michael Finus, Joyeeta Gupta, et al. “International cooperation: Agreements & instruments.” In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, edited by Ottmar Edenhofer, Ramon Pichs-Madruga, Youba Sokona, Ellie Farahani, Susanne Kadner, Kristin Seyboth, Anna Adler, et al.. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2015.ipcc_wg3_ar5_final-draft_postplenary_chapter13.pdf