Download publication

Blueprint

The great transformation: decarbonising Europe’s energy and transport systems

Economic growth in Europe will be affected by the costs of this transition from the current energy and transport system. A smooth transition towards a low-carbon energy and transport system could come at comparatively modest cost. Bruegel is contributing to this debate with this report, which is based on research that received funding from the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.

By: , , , , , and Date: February 2, 2012 Topic: Energy & Climate

The euro-area crisis dominates the economic news. Yet, the world and Europe may face even more important challenges that will shape our lives and the lives of our children.World population is projected to increase to 9 billion or more by 2050. At the same time, current trends indicate an increase in living standards and a growing middle class around the world. These two mega-trends will have profound implications, and the way they are managed will be one of the key determinants of prosperity and peace in the decades or even centuries to come. A number of factors are important in this respect.

More people and more income will increase the global demand for energy. Choosing the right sources of this energy will be one of the determining factors of global temperature.

The continued reliance on fossil-fuel energy sources is one of the main factors behind the risk of significant global temperature increases. The internationally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels appears increasingly illusory. Currently, fossil energy sources dominate many economic areas. For instance, our transport infrastructure is largely based on fossil fuels, and is thereby one of the main contributor of the carbon dioxide emissions that are linked to global temperature. Thinking about a decarbonisation strategy is therefore a key challenge with a global dimension.

Economic growth in Europe will be affected by the costs of this transition from the current energy and transport system. A smooth transition towards a low-carbon energy and transport system could come at comparatively modest cost. Furthermore, identifying the most economically beneficial solutions early on and becoming a global technology leader and standard setter offers vast opportunities for exports and economic growth. Hence, our decarbonisation strategy may eventually have a greater impact on long-term European growth than the current economic crisis.

Bruegel is contributing to this debate with this report, which is based on research that received funding from the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking. The authors argue carefully that to make decarbonisation growth friendly, a consistent policy approach is needed. Policy intervention appears indispensable as the energy and transport system is so based around and locked-in into an incumbent technology. Overcoming this lock-in is crucial. The report makes three main proposals. First, the scope, geographical coverage and duration of carbon pricing should be extended.

By setting a higher carbon price, incentives for developing and investing in new low-carbon technologies are created. Second, temporary consortia for new infrastructure to solve early-phase market failures could be put in place. This is discussed using the example of hydrogen vehicles. Lastly and importantly, an open and public transition model is needed so that second-best transport solutions do not get a head start that afterwards
cannot be reversed.

The technological, economic and political challenge ahead is vast. But choosing the right decarbonisaton strategy offers huge economic, environmental and societal benefits. We should not overlook this debate because of the euro crisis.

View comments
Read article More on this topic

External Publication

Energy in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

Bruegel fellow Simone Tagliapietra co-authored a new book on energy in Africa.

By: Manfred Hafner, Simone Tagliapietra and Lucia de Strasser Topic: Energy & Climate Date: September 5, 2018
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2018

The 2018 Annual Meetings will be held on 3-4 September and will feature sessions on European and global economic governance, as well as finance, energy and innovation.

Speakers: Maria Åsenius, Richard E. Baldwin, Carl Bildt, Barbara Botos, Maria Demertzis, Benjamin Denis, Lowri Evans, Mariya Gabriel, Svend E. Hougaard Jensen, Joanne Kellermann, Jörg Kukies, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Philippe Lespinard, Rachel Lomax, Dominique Moïsi, Jean Pierre Mustier, Ana Palacio, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Lucrezia Reichlin, Norbert Röttgen, André Sapir, Johan Van Overtveldt, Martin Sandbu, Margrethe Vestager, Reinhilde Veugelers, Nicolas Véron, Thomas Wieser, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Brussels Comic Strip Museum, Rue des Sables 20, 1000 Brussels Date: September 3, 2018
Read article Download PDF

External Publication

Export and patent specialization in low carbon technologies

The low-carbon technology sector is going through a period of disruptive innovation and strongly increased investment, which is likely to continue. Global investment in new renewable power is the largest area of electricity spending. The political momentum to combat climate change was reinforced in the Paris Agreement, when almost every country in the world agreed to aim for carbon neutrality in the second half of the century.

By: Robert Kalcik and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: August 7, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Europe needs a fresh approach to climate strategy

The EU needs a new approach to long-term climate strategy to ensure that EU climate policy is brought in line with the goals of Paris and takes into account recent technological and political changes. Climate policy can only succeed if it does not come out of a bureaucratic ‘black box’, but is part of an inclusive process involving a wide range of stakeholders.

By: Andrei Marcu and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: June 20, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The EU’s vision for a modern, clean economy

This event is part of a joint project by Bruegel and European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST/ICTSD): “Developing the EU Long-Term Climate Strategy.”

Speakers: Georg Zachmann, Andrei Marcu and Sami Andoura Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 20, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Cleaning up Europe's transport sector: which strategies?

Over the last decade, EU’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased significantly in all sectors with the only exception of transport. This sector is thus becoming a key obstacle to EU decarbonisation and more aggressive policies are needed to decarbonise it. This event discussed the potential strategies to structurally address this issue, also on the basis of Bruegel’s new policy proposal in the field.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Francesco Starace and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 3, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

A new strategy to clean up European cars, and the air we breathe

Transport is the only sector in which Europe's CO2 emissions are now higher than in 1990 and is becoming a key obstacle to the EU meeting its decarbonisation targets, as laid out in the Paris Agreement. The author recommends a three-pronged strategy for a clean-up of the sector: ban diesel and petrol vehicles, reform transport taxation and focus on early-phase technologies.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: May 2, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How to reform European transport and tackle rising emissions

The transport sector is the Europe's biggest obstacle to meeting its climate-change targets. But there are several ways in which the EU can take the initiative and lead both its citizens and its automotive industry in a cleaner direction. Bruegel fellows Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann discuss their research and policy conclusions in this episode of 'The Sound of Economics'

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 24, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Book/Special report

Developing the EU long term climate strategy

To ensure that EU climate policy is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and takes into account substantial recent shifts in the technical and political framework, the EU needs a new long-term climate strategy that will supersede the 2050 Roadmap that was issued in 2011.

By: Georg Zachmann and Andrei Marcu Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 18, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Brief

Addressing Europe’s failure to clean up the transport sector

The European Union has the long-term vision to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 and it adopted in 2014 a binding 40 percent emissions reduction target to be achieved by 2030. Transport is therefore set to become the main obstacle to the achievement of the EU’s decarbonisation goals.

By: Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 9, 2018
Read article More by this author

Opinion

EU should pay member states to get rid of coal

The European Union should act to ensure the continued transformation of its energy system, and encourage member states to overcome their dependence on coal for supplying electricity. Helping coal-mining regions with the transition should require €150 million per year – a mere 0.1% of the total EU budget – and the EU would not even need to establish a new fund to support it.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 5, 2017
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Policy Brief

Beyond coal: facilitating the transition in Europe

Europe has a dirty energy secret: coal is producing a quarter of the electricity, but three-quarters of the emissions. The EU should propose that its member countries speedily phase out coal and put in place a scheme to guarantee the social welfare of coal miners who stand to lose their jobs, making a better use of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 23, 2017
Load more posts