Eyes on a Climate Prize: Rewarding Energy Innovation to Achieve Climate Stabilization

47 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2010 Last revised: 20 Apr 2021

See all articles by Jonathan H. Adler

Jonathan H. Adler

Case Western Reserve University School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: 2011


Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at double their pre-industrial levels (or lower) will require emission reductions far in excess of what can be achieved with current or projected levels of technology at a politically acceptable cost. Substantial technological innovation is required if the nations of the world are to come anywhere close to proposed emission reduction targets. Neither traditional federal support for research and development of new technologies nor traditional command-and-control regulations are likely to spur sufficient innovation. Technology inducement prizes, on the other hand, have the potential to incentivize and accelerate the rate of technological innovation in the energy sector. This paper outlines the theory behind the use of inducement prizes to encourage and direct inventive efforts and technological innovation and identifies several comparative advantages inducement prizes have over traditional grants and subsidies for encouraging the invention and development of climate-friendly technologies. While no policy measure guarantees technological innovation, greater reliance on inducement prizes would increase the likelihood of developing and deploying needed technologies in time to alter the world’s climate future. Whatever their faults in other contexts, prizes are particularly well suited to the climate policy challenge.

Keywords: Greenhouse Gases, Technological Innovation, Prizes, Climate Change, Energy Subsidies, Energy R&D

JEL Classification: K23, K32

Suggested Citation

Adler, Jonathan H., Eyes on a Climate Prize: Rewarding Energy Innovation to Achieve Climate Stabilization (2011). 35 Harvard Environmental Law Review 1 (2011), Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-15, PERC Research Paper No. 12/16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1576699 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1576699

Jonathan H. Adler (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

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