Publications

2015
Ranson, Matthew, and Robert N Stavins. “Linkage of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Systems: Learning from Experience.” Climate Policy (2015): 1–17. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The last ten years have seen the growth of linkages between many of the world's cap-and-trade systems for GHGs, both directly between systems, and indirectly via connections to credit systems such as the Clean Development Mechanism. If nations have tried to act in their own self-interest, this proliferation of linkages implies that for many nations, the expected benefits of linkage outweighed expected costs. In this article, we draw on the past decade of experience with carbon markets to examine why systems have demonstrated this revealed preference for linking. Linkage is a multi-faceted policy decision that can be used by political jurisdictions to achieve a variety of objectives, and we find qualitative evidence that many economic, political, and strategic factors – ranging from geographic proximity to integrity of emissions reductions – influence the decision to link. We also identify some potentially important effects of linkage, such as loss of control over domestic carbon policies, which do not appear to have deterred real-world decisions to link.Policy relevanceThese findings have implications for the future role that decentralized linkages may play in international climate policy architecture. The Kyoto Protocol has entered what is probably its final commitment period, covering only a small fraction of global GHG emissions. Under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, negotiators may now gravitate toward a hybrid system, combining top-down elements for establishing targets with bottom-up elements of pledge-and-review tied to national policies and actions. The incentives for linking these national policies are likely to continue to produce direct connections among regional, national, and sub-national cap-and-trade systems. The growing network of decentralized, direct linkages among these systems may turn out to be a key part of a future hybrid climate policy architecture.

ranson_stavins_climate_policy_2015.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N, and With Coordinating Lead Authors Lead all other plus selected Authors. “Summary for Policymakers.” In Climate Change 2014: Mitigation, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group III, 2015. ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers_approved.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “When leaders meet in Paris.(for the UN Earth Summit 2015).” The Environmental Forum 32 (2015): 14. column_64.pdf

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2014
Stavins, Robert N. “Divestment Is No Substitute For Real Action on Climate Change.” Yale Environment 360, 2014. Publisher's Version
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Stavins, Robert N. “Cap and Trade Is the Only Feasible Way of Cutting Emissions.” The New York Times (2014). Publisher's VersionAbstract
With 30 years of success, even if uneven at times, pricing regimes have provided incentives to achieve goals in the least expensive manner. By Robert N. Stavins.
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Stavins, Robert N. “Climate Realities.” The New York Times (2014). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The world is now on track to more than double current greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by the end of the century.
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Stavins, Robert N. “UN Summit Can Accelerate Momentum to a New Approach to Climate Change.” The Boston Globe (2014). Publisher's Version
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Stavins, Robert N. “Should Endowments Divest Their Holdings in Fossil Fuels?Wall Street Journal (2014). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund says they should, for moral and financial reasons. Harvard’s Robert Stavins counters that divestment is a symbolic act that would achieve little and cost much.
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Gerarden, Todd D, Richard G Newell, Robert N Stavins, and Robert C Stowe. “An Assessment of the Energy-Efficiency Gap and its Implications for Climate-Change Policy.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Improving end-use energy efficiency—that is, the energy-efficiency of individuals, households, and firms as they consume energy—is often cited as an important element in efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Arguments for improving energy efficiency usually rely on the idea that energy-efficient technologies will save end users money over time and thereby provide low-cost or no-cost options for reducing GHG emissions. However, some research suggests that energy-efficient technologies appear not to be adopted by consumers and businesses to the degree that would seem justified, even on a purely financial basis. We review in this paper the evidence for a range of explanations for this apparent "energy-efficiency gap." We find most explanations are grounded in sound economic theory, but the strength of empirical support for these explanations varies widely. Retrospective program evaluations suggest the cost of GHG abatement varies considerably across different energy-efficiency investments and can diverge substantially from the predictions of prospective models. Findings from research on the energy-efficiency gap could help policy makers generate social and private benefits from accelerating the diffusion of energy-efficient technologies—including reduction of GHG emissions.

energy_efficiency_and_climate.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Chinese and US Climate Interests Are Converging.” China Dialogue, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Bilateral climate change negotiations between China and the US are the most significant development since the Kyoto Protocol

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Stavins, Robert N. “A Convergence of Interests at COP-19.(2013 Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).” The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 14. column_59.pdf

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Fowlie, Meredith, Lawrence Goulder, Matthew Kotchen, Severin Borenstein, James Bushnell, Lucas Davis, Michael Greenstone, et al.An Economic Perspective on the EPA's Clean Power Plan.” Science 346 (2014): 815–816. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In June, the Obama Administration unveiled its proposal for a Clean Power Plan, which it estimates would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing U.S. power plants 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (see the chart). Power plant emissions have declined substantially since 2005, so the plan is seeking reductions of about 18% from current levels. Electricity generation accounts for about 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions.

science-2014-fowlie.pdf

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Bodansky, Daniel M, Seth Hoedl, Gilbert E Metcalf, and Robert N Stavins. “Facilitating Linkage of Heterogeneous Regional, National, and Sub-National Climate Policies Through a Future International Agreement: Executive Summary.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Negotiations pursuant to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action appear likely to lead to a 2015 Paris agreement that embodies a hybrid climate policy architecture, combining top-down elements, such as for monitoring, reporting, and verification, with bottom-up elements, including “nationally determined contributions” from each participating country, detailing what it intends to do to reduce emissions, based on its national circumstances. For such a system to be cost-effective—and thus more likely to achieve significant global emissions reductions—a key feature will be linkages among regional, national, and sub-national climate policies. By linkage, we mean a formal recognition by a greenhouse gas mitigation program in one jurisdiction (a regional, national, or sub-national government) of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for purposes of complying with the first jurisdiction’s mitigation program. We examine how a future international policy architecture could help facilitate the growth and operation of a robust system of international linkages of regional, national, and sub-national policies. Several design elements merit serious consideration for inclusion in the Paris agreement, either directly 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.

ieta-hpca-es-sept2014.pdf

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Bodansky, Daniel M, Seth Hoedl, Gilbert E Metcalf, and Robert N Stavins. “Facilitating Linkage of Heterogeneous Regional, National, and Sub-National Climate Policies Through a Future International Agreement.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Negotiations pursuant to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action appear likely to lead to a 2015 Paris agreement that embodies a hybrid climate policy architecture, combining top-down elements, such as for monitoring, reporting, and verification, with bottom-up elements, including “nationally determined contributions” from each participating country, detailing what it intends to do to reduce emissions, based on its national circumstances. For such a system to be cost-effective—and thus more likely to achieve significant global emissions reductions—a key feature will be linkages among regional, national, and sub-national climate policies. By linkage, we mean a formal recognition by a greenhouse gas mitigation program in one jurisdiction (a regional, national, or sub-national government) of emission reductions undertaken in another jurisdiction for purposes of complying with the first jurisdiction’s mitigation program. We examine how a future international policy architecture could help facilitate the growth and operation of a robust system of international linkages of regional, national, and sub-national policies. Several design elements merit serious consideration for inclusion in the Paris agreement, either directly 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.

harvard-ieta_linkage_paper.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Film Review: David Leonard, A Year in Burgundy.” Journal of Wine Economics 9 (2014): 100–103. Publisher's Version stavins_review_of_a_year_in_burgundy_published_version.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Fossil Divestment: Warranted & Wise?The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 14. column_58.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Local Costs and Global Benefits.” The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 14. column_62.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Pricing Carbon: Promises, Problems.” The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 16. column_63.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “The Problem with EU Renewables.(renewable Energy Regulations).” The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 14. column_60.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “Understanding the IPCC's products.(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).” The Environmental Forum 31 (2014): 14. column_61.pdf

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Pages