Discussion Paper - Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center

Sectoral Approaches to International Climate Policy: A Typology and Political Analysis

| January 14, 2009

Sectoral approaches have been gaining currency in the international climate debate as a possible remedy to the shortfalls of the Kyoto Protocol. Proponents argue that a sector-based architecture can more easily invite the participation of developing countries, address competitiveness issues, and enable immediate emission reductions. However, given the numerous proposals, much confusion remains as to what sectoral approaches actually are. This paper provides a simple, yet comprehensive, typology of the various proposals for sectoral approaches. Based on the dual criteria of regulatory content and actors, three such types are identified and described: government targets and timetables, industry targets and timetables, and transnational technology cooperation. For each of these types, existing proposals and ongoing initiatives are discussed. In a second step, the paper analyzes the political landscape in which sectoral approaches are being debated, identifying the interests of their key advocates as well as the concerns of their sceptics. The Japanese government and energy-intensive manufacturing industries represent the main proponents of sectoral approaches to address concerns of carbon leakage and economic competitiveness. Developing countries, instead, are wary of attempts to impose emission reduction targets on their economies through sectoral target setting. They, therefore, interpret sectoral approaches as sector-based forms of technology cooperation and technology transfer.

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For Academic Citation: Meckling, Jonas and Gu Yoon Chung. “Sectoral Approaches to International Climate Policy: A Typology and Political Analysis.” Discussion Paper, Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center, January 14, 2009.

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