“Climate change must be regarded as market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen”

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Birmingham Energy Institute and its national partners harness expertise from the fundamental sciences and engineering through to business and economics. They deliver co-ordinated research, education and the development of global partnerships. The Institute is driving technology innovation and developing the thinking required to solve the challenges facing the UK, as it seeks to develop sustainable energy solutions in transport, electricity and heat supply.

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, Policy Director at the Birmingham Energy Institute and his colleague Professor Watson Research Director, UK Energy Research Centre, agree that international co-operation to reduce the costs of such technologies is critical, and that overall funding levels are not in line with the scale of the challenge being faced.

He emphasises that in the build-up to climate talks in Paris this December, there is also a need for stronger incentives for low-carbon technology deployment, plus the new business models that will need to emerge in the energy sector.

Dr Radcliffe adds that action from governments, businesses and citizens across the entire economy will also be required if carbon emissions are to be reduced to levels that could prevent dangerous climate change. Though many of the technologies required to reduce emissions already exist, he advocates the funding of further research to improve them and to identify new breakthroughs.

apollo programme

Following the case made in the FT by Lord Rees (co-author of the Global Apollo Programme) for accelerating the development of renewable energy and energy storage technologies through increased spending on research (FT Weekend, September 5-6), Radcliffe warns that embarking on more research at the expense of support for the deployment of existing technologies – the Global Apollo Programme’s emphasis – risks creating a false dichotomy:

“The evidence on successful technologies, including low carbon technologies such as wind and solar, shows that both forms of support have been essential. There is often a symbiotic relationship between them. Furthermore, if well designed, government support for deployment is the catalyst that helps to bring costs down”. He ends:

“As Lord Stern (also a co-author of the Global Apollo report) has put it, “climate change must be regarded as market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen. The costs of emissions should therefore be recognised and included in energy prices. Agreeing mechanisms that do that as well as supporting innovation through deployment should be a policy priority”.