Climate-Change Policy: Why Has so Little Been Achieved?

Posted: 7 Nov 2008

See all articles by Dieter Helm

Dieter Helm

Oxford Economic Research Associates (OXERA) Consulting Ltd.

Date Written: Summer 2008


While the scientific evidence for climate change grows, the policy responses have so far had little or no impact on the build-up of emissions. Current trends in emissions are adverse. The paper considers why the disconnect between science and policy exists and, in particular, why the Kyoto Protocol has achieved so little. Some contributing factors considered are: the focus on carbon production rather than consumption in the architecture of Kyoto; the flaws in the analysis presented in the Stern Report (notably on the impacts of climate change on economic growth, on the costs of mitigation, and on discounting); and the political economy of the choice of policy instruments, the politics of the rents that arise, and the technology bias. The challenges facing the Copenhagen conference are noted, and it is concluded that, with a recasting of the economics of climate change, the prospects for closing the gap between the science and policy are grim.

Keywords: climate change, Kyoto, Stern Report, energy policy, climate change policy, climate change science, Q48

Suggested Citation

Helm, Dieter, Climate-Change Policy: Why Has so Little Been Achieved? (Summer 2008). Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Vol. 24, Issue 2, pp. 211-238, 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Dieter Helm (Contact Author)

Oxford Economic Research Associates (OXERA) Consulting Ltd. ( email )

Alfred Street
Oxford OX1 4EH
United Kingdom

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