The world's economies have not been idle in the face of climate change. Companies and consumers are endeavouring to reduce their carbon footprint by investing in energy efficiency and changing their travel plans.

As the Paris 2015 climate talks get under way, the fear is growing that this international conference will be reduced to a simple list of good intentions. Current negotiations based on voluntary “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) allow participants to make attractive promises and claim victory when, in reality, their primary use will be to keep the international community waiting.

In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved.

It is widely agreed that worldwide deforestation is bad for the environment. It is responsible for about 10% of climate-change emissions and leads to massive reductions in biodiversity. The shrinkage of the Amazonian rainforest—the most well-known example of deforestation—reached a peak of 2.8 million hectares in 2004, an area almost the size of Belgium. 

So how can we protect forests? This article explores the dfferent policy options and shows that we need more evidence on how these policies perform in practice.

A deflationary debt spiral occurs when many entities simultaneously decide to sell assets to pay down debt. If the value of the assets is inferior to the debt owed, this can lead to defaults, decreased asset prices, and decreased borrowing which creates a sharp contraction in economic activity. For many years, Gail Tverberg has extensively associated unaffordable oil with deflationary debt spirals. In this post we explain how the current mal-investment in oil production increases the probability of a deflationary debt spiral. 

The subsidy programme introduced by EU Member States to finance Renewable Energy Sources (RES) will be remembered as a textbook case of a poorly conceived public policy.  However, it produced a significant side benefit: it contributed to RES competitivity in developing countries, where the battle against climate change will be fought over the next few decades.

The power industry has developed sophisticated tools for managing peak demand. But unexpected effects are emerging, notably because of information asymmetry. Analysis by our electricity experts. 

Burning fossil fuels for heating, generating electricity or for transport does not simply produce carbon-dioxide emissions, but also other greenhouse gases (GHG), such as particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

What will a 5°C warmer planet be like? Economists recommend putting a price on pollutant emissions to coordinate human activities, but this solution has been met with widespread opposition. This post explores why.

In today’s new world, an aspect of the energy transition is the intention to decarbonise energy production. It follows that tomorrow’s energy sources will be predominantly electric. There are nevertheless major differences of opinion as to the qualities of electricity production methods, whether they be nuclear, wind, photovoltaic, hydraulic or the burning of fossil fuels. By contrast, consensus seems to reign when it comes to the quality of electricity at the point of consumption. 

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