The effects of climate policies

Global climate policy hasn’t made much difference on energy transitions. That is the conclusion of a new paper by Suzuki et al. They write:

Climate policies are often assumed to have significant impacts on the nature and speed of energy transitions. To investigate this hypothesis, we develop an approach to categorise, trace, and compare energy transitions across countries and time periods.

We apply this approach to analyse electricity transitions in the G7 and the EU between 1960 and 2022, specifically examining whether and how climate policies altered the transitions beyond historical trends. Additionally, we conduct a feasibility analysis of the required transition in these countries by 2035 to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C.

We find that climate policies have so far had limited impacts: while they may have influenced the choice of deployed technologies and the type of transitions, they have not accelerated the growth of low-carbon technologies or hastened the decline of fossil fuels.

Instead, electricity transitions in the G7 and the EU have strongly correlated with the changes in electricity demand throughout the last six decades. In contrast, meeting the 1.5°C target requires unprecedented supply-centred transitions by 2035 where all G7 countries and the EU must expand low-carbon electricity five times faster and reduce fossil fuels two times faster on average compared to the rates in 2015–2020. This highlights the insufficiency of incremental changes and the need for a radically stronger effort to meet the climate target.

Have climate policies accelerated energy transitions? Historical evolution of electricity mix in the G7 and the EU compared to net-zero targets