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Working paper

Decarbonization and Energy Policy Instruments in the EU: Does Carbon Pricing Prevail?

Stepanov I. A., Albrecht J.
The issue of instrument choice is vital for climate policy. Carbon pricing is used next to a range of traditional energy taxes and renewable energy policies such as feed-in tariffs and minimal renewable generation targets. Several countries introduced carbon taxes alongside existing energy taxes such as excise duties on vehicle fuels. Since 2005, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has attached a direct price to the GHG emissions of ETS companies. The combination of multiple instruments and explicit and indirect carbon price signals created a complex and frequently changing institutional landscape that blurs the contribution of each policy instrument. Can the decarbonization of the European economy be attributed to carbon price instruments or to renewable energy policies together with other fiscal instruments? This paper clarifies the relative impact of explicit carbon price instruments (carbon taxes and EU ETS) compared to other instruments, namely renewable energy policies and indirect carbon price signals (general energy taxes). The methodology is based on the calculation of the implicit carbon price in existing fiscal systems. On the basis of panel data for 30 European countries 1995–2016, several fixed-effect regression estimations were performed. The results indicate a greater but decreasing impact of price instruments on carbon intensity compared to renewable energy policies and a greater but decreasing relative impact of indirect price signals compared to explicit ones.