Search
Twitter
Post archive – by topic

Entries in climate change (23)

Tuesday
May122015

The CCA's implicit social cost of carbon

At least $30/tCO2-e in 2020 AUD.


I’ve had occasion recently to review climate abatement schemes – notably the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) – and in the course of doing so realised that Australia doesn’t have an official “social cost of carbon”.

(I also realised that in previous work I’d referenced the wrong section of legislation, but sssh.)

The social cost of carbon dioxide emissions (or greenhouse gases generally) is their cost to society. It signals what society should, in theory, be willing to pay now to avoid the future damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Plenty of assumptions and models are required derive a value, but for the sake of making a cost/benefit tradeoff it’s vital to have an idea of the benefits we get from abating a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, it’s important to have an officially recognised figure, both for credibility and to reduce search costs.

The official USA 2013 central estimate of the social cost of carbon emitted in 2015 is US$39/tCO2-e, in 2011 USD. (Another commonly quoted figure of US$37/tCO2-e is the same estimate in 2007 USD, as far as I can tell.)

The UK has an official cost of carbon, too, though their approach has changed a little over time. In 2002, the official social cost of carbon was £19/tCO2-e, rising at a rate of £0.27/tCO2-e per year. In 2007, the UK switched from a social cost of carbon to a shadow price of carbon:

“The SPC [shadow price of carbon] is based on the SCC [social cost of carbon] for a given stabilisation goal, but can be adjusted to reflect:
- estimates of the MAC [marginal abatement cost] required to take the world onto the stabilisation goal; and
- other factors that may affect UK willingness to pay for reductions in carbon emissions, such as political desire to show leadership in tackling climate change.”

In 2009, the UK ditched the shadow price of carbon and, in a fairly baffling change of tack, decided to value carbon as a traded commodity at a level consistent with the UK Government’s domestic and international targets in the short and long term.

“This new methodology has replaced the previous approach based on damage cost estimates.”

Quite.

Regardless: the USA has (and the UK had) an official social cost of carbon. Australia doesn’t, as far as I can tell.

But! Australia’s Climate Change Authority (CCA), in its 2014 Targets and Progress Review, recommended that Australia pursue a minimum reduction in GHG emissions of 19% by 2020 (vs. 2000). In modelling that target, the CCA estimated that it would involve carbon prices of up to $30/tCO2-e in 2020, in real terms. (See p. 135)

The CCA used the damage costs of carbon (i.e. the social costs) in making its recommendations. While not explicitly stated, the CCA’s preparedness to recommend an abatement target that imposes costs of $30/tCO2-e in 2020, in real terms, implies the CCA regards the social costs of carbon as ≥$30/tCO2-e.

Q.E.D.

Friday
Apr242015

Additionality in the VEET

When I reviewed energy efficiency trading schemes a few years ago,* the VEET was the only scheme we considered to address additionality. The section of the VEET Act 2007 we referred to was Division 2 (Prescribed Activities), §15 (2):

An activity may be prescribed to be a prescribed activity if the activity will result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would not otherwise have occurred if the activity was not undertaken.

However! I think we (I) referred to the wrong section – I think Division 2 (Prescribed Activities), §19 (2) is the appropriate one:

Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the discount factors are to take into account any uncertainty associated with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that would eventuate from a specified prescribed activity or specified class of prescribed activities but for the existence of the VEET scheme.

 

* Betz, R., Jones, M.C., MacGill, I.M., and Passey, R. (2013). Trading in energy efficiency in Australia: What are the lessons learnt so far? [PDF]

Thursday
Jul032014

Climate Change and Health: Speech to the MDSC

I was honoured to today sit on a panel at the University of Melbourne MD Student Conference with Professor David Griggs, Associate Professor Marion Carey, and Senator Richard di Natale. Our panel topic was Climate Change and Health: The Greatest Moral, Economic and Social Challenge of Our Time.

Professor Griggs spoke on the sciene of climate change, I spoke on the economics of climate change, A/Prof. Carey spoke on the health effects of climate change, and Senator di Natale – who was busy and missed most of our speeches – spoke across all three topics.

The text of my speech is below.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar252013

States of decay: Complementing the federal carbon policy

Updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 23:10 by Registered CommenterMCJ

With the centrepiece of Australia’s climate policy not even a year old, most Australians are sick of it, or sick of hearing about it – fewer than 13% trust what politicians say about major public issues like climate change. And in the shadow of the Clean Energy Future package (CEF), state and federal governments are quietly letting other climate policies slip.

This “abdication of climate policy”, as Tristan Edis calls it, wouldn’t be so bad if Australia’s climate policy were perfect. But it isn’t; no policy is. The carbon price, while worth having, is a broad, blunt tool that covers but two-thirds of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The rest of the CEF fills in some gaps, but there is ample room for further complementary climate policy at a state and federal level.

I wrote last year on this topic, giving reasons why state (or other federal) climate policies could still be worthwhile under the CEF. This would mean innovative approaches:

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug282012

Why Drop the Price Floor? Taking a Gamble on the EU

Updated on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 14:28 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Updated on Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 16:27 by Registered CommenterMCJ

I couldn’t make much at first of today’s announcement by Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, that Australia was going to link its ETS with the EU ETS, and oh, by the way, we’re dropping the price floor.

That Australia and the EU will link their schemes good news, but it’s an expected development. Dropping the price floor, on the hand, had been speculated about (notably by the AFR; well done, Marcus Priest), wasn’t really part of the original plan.

As I wrote back in May, a price floor has some good things going for it, despite being technically challenging, and as it’s only regulation the government has the numbers to pass it even with Rob Oakeshott’s opposition. So my initial reaction was that the floor price had been put in the “too hard” basket and the ETS linkage was just used to hide the announcement somewhat.

I’ve since heard, however, that dropping the price floor was a condition of the EU agreeing to link the schemes. This makes more sense.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul242012

Laggard to Leader: a Review

Updated on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 16:41 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Beyond Zero Emissions, the non-for-profit climate change group, yesterday released the latest in their series of plans to get Australia to a state of zero emissions (or below): Laggard to Leader; How Australia can lead the world to zero carbon prosperity.

The report springs from the observation, also reported by e.g. Crikey on Friday, that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is failing to achieve the actions required to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change. It then goes beyond this to suggest new means of addressing the problem, in which Australia leads the world to a zero carbon future.

Sound utopian? It’s actually reasonably well argued, by and large, even if it’s difficult to see our current crop of politicians implementing many of the report’s suggestions.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jun302012

Pricing Carbon Has Passed the Acid Test

I am quoted in today’s Sydney Morning Herald piece on the carbon pricing scheme.

Tomorrow, the nation steps over the threshold of carbon pricing into a domain where pumping out greenhouse gas has an economic price as well as an environmental one. The federal government’s Clean Energy Bill is a compromise with which no one is entirely happy. But the consensus of economists is that it is likely to work well enough to cut emissions by 5 per cent, the minimum supported by the major parties.

“If you assume the political will to implement the scheme is there, a huge ‘if’, then the question is whether the scheme is designed well enough to achieve its goals - I think it is,” says Martin Jones, a researcher at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets and University of NSW. “The mechanism is an effective one: emissions trading schemes have proven records of reducing emissions.”

 

Wednesday
Jun272012

Does It Make Sense for Australia to Restrict Its Export of Fossil Fuels?

Once we dig up and sell the coal, are we still responsible for the emissions? ‘Stop exporting fossil fuels’ has not just economic, but moral components, given that much of our fuels go to developing countries.

Click to read more ...

Friday
May112012

Surrendering to the Idea of a Price Floor

From July 2015, the Australian federal government will set the price of the permits in its emissions trading scheme free – within limits. The government intends to introduce a price floor and price ceiling until at least 2017/18.

This is good news for emission reduction activities whose viability depends on prices several years hence, such as larger, more complex projects. Further, the goal of abatement at least-cost should be balanced against the goal of abating as rapidly as possible; should reaching current targets be cheaper than expected, a floor price can ensure a minimum level of spending on abatement.

Last December, the government released a discussion paper and called for submission on the price floor, which combines a reserve price for Australian carbon units at auction with an ‘international unit surrender charge’ that ensures international carbon credits cost at least as much as domestic units. Four options are being considered for the international unit surrender charge.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Mar292012

State Climate Schemes Are Still Worthwhile under a Carbon Price

In justifying their recent abandonment of state-based climate schemes, the governments of Queensland and Victoria have both claimed that the schemes will be redundant under the federal emissions trading scheme (ETS) that begins in July. Yet this justification is only a smokescreen, as a carbon price can well exist with other environmental and climate schemes.

Click to read more ...