Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.

Oil Exports Budget Deal? Market, Climate, and Geopolitical Consequences

by Michael Levi Tuesday, December 15, 2015
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

News outlets are reporting that a congressional budget deal could end the oil export ban in exchange for extension of the Investment and Production Tax Credits (ITC and PTC) that support solar and wind energy. Here I want to lay out what ending the oil export ban could mean for markets, climate, and geopolitics. (I suspect Varun may weigh in later on the ITC/PTC extensions if and when details emerge.) Short version: Little immediate impact on anything; a possible boost on the order of a few hundred thousand barrels a day to U.S. oil production over the longer run; a factor of perhaps fifty smaller impact on carbon dioxide emissions than the Clean Power Plan and CAFE (fuel economy standards); and a mixed bag for geopolitics and trade talks. Read more »

Lessons in Cleantech Success from Scandinavia (Pt. 2): The Importance of the Danish Manufacturing Revival

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, December 15, 2015
A eletricity pole transporting wind energy to Danish cities and industries in Valsgaard, northern Jutland (Reuters/Henning Bagger) A eletricity pole transporting wind energy to Danish cities and industries in Valsgaard, northern Jutland (Reuters/Henning Bagger)

This post is co-written by Ben Armstrong and Varun Sivaram. Ben is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT focused on Political Economy and a researcher at the MIT Governance Lab.

In Part 1 of this series, we posed a puzzle: why has Denmark had more success at clean tech innovation than its neighbor, Sweden? Neither demand-pull conditions, which provide a sales environment that invites innovation, nor technology-push factors, which directly support technology research, development, and demonstration, appears to favor Denmark over Sweden. Both countries have similar environmental policies and environmentally conscious populaces, and Sweden has actually been more successful than Denmark in inducing other forms of innovation, especially in information and communications technology (ICT). But Denmark leads by a substantial margin in patents for climate change mitigation and the commercialization of eco-friendly technology. What explains Denmark’s outperformance in cleantech? Read more »

Two Cheers for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

by Michael Levi Saturday, December 12, 2015
Paris; climate; UN; COP21 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

LE BOURGET, FRANCE – The Paris climate summit (also known as COP 21) has adopted a new “Paris Agreement”. The agreement has the potential to mark a laudable and historic shift in how the world negotiates cooperation on climate change. It does not justify the over-the-top claims that some are making – that it spells the end of fossil fuels or assures that temperatures will rise no more than two degrees – but those who negotiated it never believed it could. Nor does it deserve to be pilloried (a rarer but still real reaction) for failing to save the planet – an entirely unreasonable expectation. Instead it begins to set up a framework for transparency and review of countries’ nationally driven emissions-cutting efforts and a process for encouraging stronger efforts over time. In doing so it meets the modest but important goals that were sensibly set for the negotiations. Only time will tell, though, whether the full promise of the Paris Agreement is achieved. Read more »

Alyssa Ayres: India at Paris – Working with a Rising India

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Wednesday, December 9, 2015
climate change; Paris; COP21; India REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

India’s status as a large developing country and a major emitter complicates its position at the Paris climate talks, writes Alyssa Ayres in this guest blog post, but there are signs that its delegation is working more constructively than in years past toward a deal. This piece is part of our guest series surrounding the UN talks in Paris. Previous posts addressed deforestation, short-lived pollutants, climate change and conflict in northern Nigeria, international climate institutions beyond the UN, and China’s rhetoric on climate. Read more »

Jennifer Harris: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Forests in Paris

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Tuesday, December 8, 2015
climate change; deforestation; Indonesia REUTERS/Beawiharta

Deforestation is a critical source of carbon emissions that should not be overlooked in climate negotiations, argues Senior Fellow Jennifer Harris in this guest blog post. Her piece is part of our ongoing guest series surrounding the Paris climate talks, with previous posts on short-lived pollutants, climate and conflict in northern Nigeria, international climate institutions beyond the UN process, and China’s climate rhetoric. Read more »

How India Could Actually Reach Its Audacious Solar Targets

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Woman installs off-grid solar in Tinginaput, India (UK Department for International Development) Woman installs off-grid solar in Tinginaput, India (UK Department for International Development)

PARIS—Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has set a dramatic target for solar power: 100 Gigawatts (GW) by 2022, or more than half of all solar installed to date globally by the end of 2014. Back in March, I questioned whether these targets were realistic, given that India currently has less than 5 GW installed today. But after digging into India’s progress to date, asking Modi administration officials about the sincerity of their target, and understanding the calculus of Indian and foreign solar developers who are pledging billions of dollars of solar investment, I am turning into a believer. India’s target, still aspirational, could actually materialize. Read more »

Molina and Zaelke: Cutting Short-Lived Pollutants Can Give Quick Wins on Warming

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Monday, December 7, 2015
climate change; emissions; pollution; Paris REUTERS/Bret Hartman

Policymakers should look to reductions in potent, short-lived pollutants to reduce warming faster than cuts to carbon dioxide emissions alone, write Nobel Prize-winner Mario Molina and Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development founder Durwood Zaelke in this guest post. This piece is part of our ongoing guest blog series surrounding the Paris climate talks, which has included posts on China’s political rhetoric, international climate institutions beyond the UN talks, and the links between climate and conflict in northern Nigeria. Read more »

John Campbell: Climate Change and Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Nigeria

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Saturday, December 5, 2015
Nigeria; climate change; conflict REUTERS/Stringer

Climate change is nothing new in northern Nigeria, writes John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa Studies and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, and its influence in local conflicts can already be felt. In his contribution to our guest series surrounding the UN climate conference in Paris, Ambassador Campbell notes that the changing climate is, if not the cause, then certainly part of the context of the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.  Read more »

Stewart Patrick: Combating Climate Change Beyond Paris

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Friday, December 4, 2015
REUTERS/Benoit Tessier REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The UN climate talks in Paris are just one part of the international climate policy regime, write Stewart Patrick, director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, and Research Associate Naomi Egel. In this post, part of our ongoing guest series on the Paris summit, they note other institutions contributing to the climate policy process and highlight several climate policy options from CFR’s Global Governance Monitor. Read more »

Yanzhong Huang: China’s New Rhetoric at COP21

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Thursday, December 3, 2015
China; Climate Change; COP21 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

China’s public rhetoric about international climate policy has changed dramatically since the 2009 UN summit in Copenhagen, write Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for Global Health, and Research Associate Ariella Rotenberg. In this piece, part of our series of guest posts on the UN climate summit in Paris, they explain why that is and what it might mean for the ongoing UN summit in Paris. Read more »