Cutting Emissions and Budget Deficits for a Post-Pandemic World


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In 2020, the long-term crisis of climate change has been temporarily overshadowed by the COVID-19 emergency, pushing many governments into deep budget deficits. As countries mobilize funds to fight the pandemic and bolster their economies, it cannot be ignored that whatever measures are put in place to recover from the current crisis must not undermine efforts to tackle the longer term threat of climate change. Article 2.1.c of the Paris Agreement on climate change: “making finance flows consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”, applies just as much now as before.  This working paper explores how two fiscal tools, fossil fuel subsidies (FFS) and carbon pricing — putting a price on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through taxation or carbon markets, influence the signal sent to the market to align economic development with climate constraints. Fossil fuel subsidies act as a negative price on carbon and increase the risk of locking investment in fossil fuels that are incompatible with the low-carbon transition required to meet the Paris Agreement’s objectives. As we document in the report, the current coverage and levels of carbon pricing are also deeply insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement limiting the increase of the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” while “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C. This Working Paper explores the interplay between FFS reform and carbon pricing at the international and national levels. We note that effective carbon pricing, promoted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund, is a valuable tool to send effective carbon mitigation signals to the market. However, without including the impact of fossil fuel subsidies, these analyses present only a partial picture.These findings highlight the importance of increasing implicit and explicit carbon prices and reforming fossil fuel subsidies. In the context of the COVID-19 emergency, it is essential that governments, in a hurry to take action to boost their economies, don’t overlook the need to keep recovery stimulus policies aligned with climate goals.
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