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Ben McWilliams and Georg Zachmann

Articles by Ben McWilliams and Georg Zachmann

Making sure green household investment pays off

July 19, 2021

Policies are needed to support green fuel switching by households; support should be phased out as the carbon price rises.
The first stage of decarbonisation in Europe was characterised by incremental improvements in energy efficiency and by replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation. To meet the EU’s ambitious 2030 targets, which will involve a reduction in annual greenhouse-gas emissions from about 3,600 million tonnes (2015 figure) to 2,100 million tonnes, it is now essential for households to switch from fossil fuels in transport and heating to clean alternatives. European Commission modelling indicates that almost a quarter of the total emissions reduction up to 2030 will have to come from road transport and residential heating, requiring annual investments of €800 billion.

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Commercialisation contracts: European support for low-carbon technology deployment

July 1, 2021

To cut the cost of decarbonisation significantly, the best solution would be to provide investors with a predictable carbon price that corresponds to the envisaged decarbonisation pathway.

The authors wish to thank Natalia Fabra, Pedro Linares, Jörn Richstein and Oliver Sartor for helpful comments. 

Many of the technologies that can help the European Union become a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 have been shown to work but are not yet commercially competitive with incumbent fossil-fuel technologies. There is not enough private investment to drive the deployment of new low-carbon alternatives. This is primarily because carbon prices are neither high enough nor stable. There are a number of benefits from the deployment of low-carbon technologies that private firms do not factor in.

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Navigating through hydrogen

March 31, 2021

Policymakers must address the need to displace carbon-intensive hydrogen with low-carbon hydrogen, and incentivise the uptake of hydrogen as a means to decarbonise sectors with hard-to-reduce emissions.

Hydrogen is seen as a means to decarbonise sectors with greenhouse gas emissions that are hard to reduce, as a medium for energy storage, and as a fallback in case halted fossil-fuel imports lead to energy shortages. Hydrogen is likely to play at least some role in the European Union’s achievement by 2050 of a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target.
However, production of hydrogen in the EU is currently emissions intensive. Hydrogen supply could be decarbonised if produced via electrolysis based on electricity from renewable sources, or produced from natural gas with carbon, capture, and

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A European carbon border tax: much pain, little gain

March 5, 2020

The European Commission should not make the implementation of a carbon border adjustment mechanism into a must-have element of its climate policy. There is little in the way of strong empirical evidence that would justify a carbon-adjustment measure. Moreover, significant logistical, legal and political challenges will arise during the design. The EU should instead focus upon the implementation of measures to trigger the development of a competitive low-carbon industry in Europe.The European Green Deal has set a target of reducing European Union carbon emissions by about 40 per cent over the next ten years. Reaching this target is likely to involve a significant increase in carbon prices. Theoretically, higher carbon prices can lead to carbon leakage, or the relocation of industrial

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