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Putting a Price on Carbon: Evaluating A Carbon Price and Complementary Policies for a 1.5° World

To achieve the Paris Agreement goals and limit global temperature rise this century to 1.5°C, the global economy must be rapidly transformed. A carbon price is needed to incorporate climate change costs into economic decision-making to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the electricity sector. However, a carbon price is not a silver bullet for addressing climate change. Complementary policies to a carbon price are needed. These policies and programs must address market barriers and drive deep emissions cuts over the long-term.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

The increasing effects of climate change highlight the need to rapidly transform the global economy to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and limit global warming this century to well below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C. Deeply decarbonizing the U.S. energy system by 2050 will require rapidly increasing energy efficiency, decarbonizing electricity supply, and electrifying energy end uses, including buildings, transportation, and industry.

A carbon price is needed to incorporate climate change costs into economic decision-making to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the electricity sector; however, a price is not a silver bullet for addressing climate change. Policies and programs that address externalities other than the cost of climate change and that provide incentives to develop and deploy long lead time mitigation options are needed in addition to a price on carbon so that deep emission reductions can be achieved in the longer term.

Measures are needed to bend the cost curve and remove the market barriers that hinder long-term emission reductions. Such measures should be evaluated based on their ability to minimize the cost of achieving long-term emission targets rather than on their cost in achieving near-term emission reductions.

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