Globalizing Carbon Lock-In

Energy Policy, 2006, 34 (10): 1185-1197

Posted: 7 Jun 2013

See all articles by Gregory Unruh

Gregory Unruh


Javier Carrillo-Hermosilla

University of Alcala, School of Economic and Business Sciences

Date Written: 2006


This paper extends the arguments surrounding carbon lock-in elaborated in Unruh (Energy Policy 28 (2000) 817; 30 (2002) 317) to countries currently undergoing industrialization. It argues that, for numerous reasons, industrializing countries are unlikely to leapfrog carbon intensive energy development. On the contrary, carbon lock-in may be globalizing and could further constrain climate change mitigation options. It is then argued that many policy recommendations ignore carbon lock-in, possibly limiting their potential for successful implementation. The paper then discusses four policy approaches that appear to have advantages given lockin conditions. It is recognized, however, that relative ease of implementation does not necessarily equate with superiority. Instead, it is merely a path dependent outcome of past development decisions. Pursuing policies on the basis of relative implementation ease may help address the issue of climate change, but could also result in sub-optimal outcomes along other dimensions of sustainable development.

Keywords: Carbon lock-in, Leapfrogging, Developing economies

Suggested Citation

Unruh, Gregory and Carrillo-Hermosilla, Javier, Globalizing Carbon Lock-In (2006). Energy Policy, 2006, 34 (10): 1185-1197, Available at SSRN:

Gregory Unruh

Independent ( email )

Javier Carrillo-Hermosilla (Contact Author)

University of Alcala, School of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

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Alcala de Henares, Madrid 28802

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