Decarbonizing power – the politics and economics of phasing out fossil fuels
Global Media Forum
Deutsche Welle, Wuppertal Institut, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Germany, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
The climate conference in Paris has been hailed as a milestone in international climate cooperation. For the first time, poorer and richer countries alike have drafted plans which are the basis of a comprehensive international agreement for global decarbonization. Now, however, follows the much less glorious phase of implementation – that is, if the agreed limit of 2°C warming is to be taken seriously. For the energy sector, which is central to decarbonization, this means going beyond the brave new world of phasing in renewables, and entering the politically messy world of actively phasing out fossil fuels.
Progressive businesses around the world have been signing so-called Corporate Climate Communiqués, asking policy makers to establish clear and strong policies and thus level the playing field across countries, industries and companies. Large investors such as Norway's pension fund will pull out of coal investments to minimise their asset risk in a decarbonized future. At the same time, established industries harshly criticise such policy measures as outlined in the German climate protection plan (Klimaschutzplan 2050), even going so far as to speak ofa looming "climate dictatorship". This is a good example of how contentious the issue of radical decarbonization politics and opens up several questions:
- Is the fossil fuel phase out an opportunity for or a threat to the economy?
- What are the first-mover advantages of deep decarbonization and how can countries reap them?
- Do we need to compensate fossil fuel industries to overcome political resistance?
- How can poor countries avoid carbon lock-in?
- Gesine Schwan, President, HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform; Co-Chair of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Germany
- Anna Pegels, Senior Researcher, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Germany
- Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, France
- Luke Sussams, Senior Researcher, Carbon Tracker Initiative, United Kingdom
- Hilton Trollip, Senior Researcher, Energy Research Center, University of Cape Town, South Africa