Edited by Jennifer I. Considine
Chapter 18: Governing the geopolitics of climate action after the Paris Agreement
Despite decades of global experience in designing, implementing and refining approaches to low carbon energy deployment, alarm bells are ringing over the rise of policy risk as a barrier to effective implementation. This is evidenced by constant policy, legal and regulatory reforms leading to a contiguous cycle of government intervention even in countries recognised as having some of the most advanced energy and climate governance frameworks in place. Worse, it is not really being addressed at all, a consequence of policy having typically received less attention in the field of energy studies than law or economics in addressing climate change. This chapter examines the role of policy risk and the significance of politics on governmental approaches to deploying renewable, nuclear and carbon capture and storage technologies by drawing on examples from the EU and the US with a focus on the UK. A recurrent theme in the analysis is that uncertainty deriving from low carbon energy policy and politics does not just affect deployment rates; policy risk goes deeper by playing a fundamental role in what low carbon technologies are chosen in terms of access to subsidies and preferential political support. As argued here, the adoption of legally weak (ambiguous) definitions of what renewable and low carbon actually means has given rise to support for politically convenient technology options that are not truly renewable or low carbon. This chapter highlights a number of lessons to be learnt in-order to address policy risk. Definitions for renewable and low carbon energy need to be revisited keeping in mind that they need to accurately reflect the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Linked to this, there also needs to be some understanding of the end destination of set targets and policy objectives in terms of what technologies will be used. Further, not all low carbon technologies face the same level of policy risk, and it could be argued that policy risk is being used as a tool for ideological and political objectives.
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