Escaping carbon lock-in

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Media Type: Article - Recent

Date of Publication: March 2002

Year of Publication: 2002

Publisher: Elsevier

Author(s): Gregory C. Unruh

Journal: Energy Policy

Volume: 30:4

Pages: 317-325

Categories: ,

How can industrialized nations break away from fossil fuel-based energy systems when their technological, organizational, social, and institutional systems have co-evolved with them? Gregory C. Unruh presents the techno-institutional complex that has emerged and argues that exogenous forces may be required to enable escape from carbon lock-in.

ABSTRACT: This article explores the climate policy implications of the arguments made in “Understanding carbon lock-in” (Unruh, 2000), which posited that industrial countries have become locked-into fossil fuel-based energy systems through path dependent processes driven by increasing returns to scale. Carbon lock-in arises through technological, organizational, social and institutional co-evolution, “culminating” in what was termed as techno-institutional complex (TIC). In order to resolve the climate problem, an escape from the lock-in condition is required. However, due to the self-referential nature of TIC, escape conditions are unlikely to be generated internally and it is argued here that exogenous forces are probably required.

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