Publications

2015
Carraro, Carlo, Ottmar Edenhofer, Christian Flachsland, Charles Kolstad, Robert N. Stavins, and Robert Stowe. “The IPCC at a Crossroads: Opportunities for Reform.” Science 350 (2015): 34–35. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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?

stavins_et_al_ipcc_science_151002.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N.Is Cheap Oil Good News or Bad?The Environmental Forum 32 (2015): 14. column_68.pdf

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Bodansky, Daniel M., Seth A. Hoedl, Gilbert E. Metcalf, and Robert N. Stavins. “Facilitating Linkage of Climate Policies through the Paris Outcome.” Climate Policy (2015): 1–17. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

bodansky-etal_climate_policy_article.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “A Breakthrough Climate Accord in Lima but a Tough Road to Paris.” The Conversation, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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…
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Stavins, Robert N. “The UN's Climate Change Body Looks Inward to Move Ahead.” The Conversation, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
At a crossroads with its chairman leaving, the UN’s IPCC looks to engage more social scientists and representatives from developing countries.
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Stavins, Robert N. “Assessing the Energy Paradox.(achieving Energy Efficiency Technologies Cost Benefits).” The Environmental Forum 32 (2015): 14. column_67.pdf

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Gerarden, Todd D, Richard G Newell, and Robert N Stavins. “Assessing the Energy-Efficiency Gap.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Environmental Economics Program, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

sloan_energy_efficiency_monograph.pdf

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Carraro, Carlo, Charles D Kolstad, and Robert N Stavins. “Assessment and Communication of the Social Science of Climate Change: Bridging Research and Policy” (2015). Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

carraro_kolstad_stavins_feem_ipcc_1.pdf

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Stavins, Robert N. “COP-20 in Lima: A New Way Forward.(conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).” The Environmental Forum 32 (2015): 14. column_65.pdf

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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

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Stavins, Robert N. “The IPCC at a Crossroads.(intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).” The Environmental Forum 32 (2015): 16. column_66.pdf

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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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