Sequencing to Ratchet Up Climate Policy Stringency

This report develops a conceptual model of policy sequencing rooted in climate economics and political science as a pathway to achieving the aspirations of the Paris climate agreement. The ideas are illustrated with examples from Germany and California.

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Sept. 28, 2018


Michael Pahle, Dallas Burtraw, Christian Flachsland, Nina Kelsey, Eric Biber, Jonas Meckling, Ottmar Edenhofer, and John Zysman


Journal Article

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1 minute

The Paris Agreement formulates the goal of GHG neutrality in the second half of this century. Given that Nationally Determined Contributions are as yet insufficient, the question is through which policies can this goal be realized? Identifying policy pathways to ratchet up stringency is instrumental, but little guidance is available. We propose a policy sequencing framework and substantiate it using the cases of Germany and California. Its core elements are policy options to overcome barriers to stringency over time. Such sequencing can advance policy design and hopefully reconcile the controversy between first-best and second-best approaches.

Key Findings

  • The Paris climate accord embraced an iterative process of nationally determined commitments (pledge and review) as the global framework for reducing emissions over time.
  • Frameworks to think about the evolution of policies are scarce, and none explicitly considers increasing stringency as a guiding principle.
  • We postulate the existence of barriers to greater stringency in climate policy and argue that policy sequencing can be a way to overcoming these barriers over time.
  • To make the model analytically useful, barriers are characterized along with related sequencing options, drawing on illustrative examples from Germany and California.


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