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A low carbon industrial revolution? Insights and challenges from past technological and economic transformations

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  • Pearson, Peter J.G.
  • Foxon, Timothy J.

Abstract

Recent efforts to promote a transition to a low carbon economy have been influenced by suggestions that a low carbon transition offers challenges and might yield economic benefits comparable to those of the previous industrial revolutions. This paper examines these arguments and the challenges facing a low carbon transition, by drawing on recent thinking on the technological, economic and institutional factors that enabled and sustained the first (British) industrial revolution, and the role of ‘general purpose technologies’ in stimulating and sustaining this and subsequent industrial transformation processes that have contributed to significant macroeconomic gains. These revolutions involved profound, long drawn-out changes in economy, technology and society; and although their energy transitions led to long-run economic benefits, they took many decades to develop. To reap significant long-run economic benefits from a low carbon transition sooner rather than later would require systemic efforts and incentives for low carbon innovation and substitution of high-carbon technologies. We conclude that while achieving a low carbon transition may require societal changes on a scale comparable with those of previous industrial revolutions, this transition does not yet resemble previous industrial revolutions. A successful low carbon transition would, however, amount to a different kind of industrial revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Pearson, Peter J.G. & Foxon, Timothy J., 2012. "A low carbon industrial revolution? Insights and challenges from past technological and economic transformations," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 117-127.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:50:y:2012:i:c:p:117-127
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.07.061
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bobo Zheng & Jiuping Xu, 2014. "Carbon Capture and Storage Development Trends from a Techno-Paradigm Perspective," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(8), pages 1-30, August.
    2. Claire M. Weiller & Michael G. Pollitt, 2013. "Platform Markets and Energy Services," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1361, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Islar, Mine & Brogaard, Sara & Lemberg-Pedersen, Martin, 2017. "Feasibility of energy justice: Exploring national and local efforts for energy development in Nepal," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 668-676.
    4. Rubio-Varas, Mar & Muñoz-Delgado, Beatriz, 2017. "200 years diversifying the energy mix? Diversification paths of the energy baskets of European early comers vs. latecomers," Working Papers in Economic History 2017/01, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).
    5. Fertel, Camille & Bahn, Olivier & Vaillancourt, Kathleen & Waaub, Jean-Philippe, 2013. "Canadian energy and climate policies: A SWOT analysis in search of federal/provincial coherence," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1139-1150.
    6. repec:gam:jeners:v:10:y:2017:i:8:p:1073-:d:105764 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Glasnovic, Zvonimir & Margeta, Karmen & Premec, Krunoslav, 2016. "Could Key Engine, as a new open-source for RES technology development, start the third industrial revolution?," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1194-1209.
    8. Jin, Wei & Zhang, ZhongXiang, 2015. "Levelling the playing field: On the missing role of network externality in designing renewable energy technology deployment policies," Working Papers 249514, Australian National University, Centre for Climate Economics & Policy.
    9. Juliana Subtil Lacerda & Jeroen C. J. M. van den Bergh, 2014. "International Diffusion of Renewable Energy Innovations: Lessons from the Lead Markets for Wind Power in China, Germany and USA," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(12), pages 1-28, December.
    10. Foster, Edward & Contestabile, Marcello & Blazquez, Jorge & Manzano, Baltasar & Workman, Mark & Shah, Nilay, 2017. "The unstudied barriers to widespread renewable energy deployment: Fossil fuel price responses," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 258-264.
    11. Hoggett, Richard, 2014. "Technology scale and supply chains in a secure, affordable and low carbon energy transition," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 296-306.

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