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COVID-19 Recovery Packages and Industrial Emission Rebounds: Mind the Gap

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Energy Transition, Climate Change, and COVID-19
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Abstract

Meeting the net-zero climate target by 2050 has become a priority for the European Commission. The success of such objective largely depends on the design of COVID-19 economic recovery plans. In this paper we identify industrial sectors that, if governments are willing to decouple economic growth and emissions, should not benefit from recovery stimuli. Our results suggest that phasing-out the mining sector, a large provider of inputs to heavy polluting activities, would have large impacts on emissions once activity recovers. We also identify coke and refined petroleum products, chemical products and electricity and gas activities as critical downstream industries. Greening their output would limit GHG rebound effects in the coming months.

First draft: June 2020. Authors would like to thank as well the seminar and conference participants at University of Paris-Dauphine and Climate Economics Chair.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This objective ensures a temperature rise below 1.5C degree by 2100 (UNEP, 2019).

  2. 2.

    Suggesting we have not decoupled GDP growth and carbon emissions (Helm, 2020).

  3. 3.

    In April 2020, all G20 nations (including most EU member states), had signed such fiscal measures into law (see International Monetary Fund, 2020).

  4. 4.

    Precisely, France rescue plan for Air France reached €7 billion (Les Echos, 2020); Australian government announced AU$715mn of unconditional Australian airline relief (through the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Commonwealth of Australia, 2020), and US$32bn of bailouts for US airlines (see Courtney, 2020 for a review of CARES Act)).

  5. 5.

    Which, for instance, has not been the case for Air France (Le Monde, 2020).

  6. 6.

    Although governments will have flexibility regarding the allocation of such funds, the main priority is to reach the EU’s objectives of climate neutrality and digital transformation, to offer social and employment support as well as to reinforce the EU’s role as a global player (European Parliament, 2020).

  7. 7.

    Several other factors are relevant to the design of economic recovery packages: contributions to the productive asset base and national wealth, speed of implementation, affordability, simplicity, impact on inequality and various political considerations.

  8. 8.

    In detail, economic multiplier measures the impact on activity of each additional currency unit of spending/tax cut funded by borrowing. A multiplier of 1 means $1 extra spending boosts final production and income by $1. A multiplier of 3 implies $1 spending boosts final income and output by $3.

  9. 9.

    Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane), contributing to global warming. See full description in the Sect. 2.

  10. 10.

    In the following, we name “cascading process” such a dynamics of emission contraction.

  11. 11.

    Such sectors drive GHG emissions in the industrial system. Without contributions in terms of climate strategy, the government willing to achieve climate goals should not target them.

  12. 12.

    We define “primary inputs” as the main factors used in production (labour, capital, land and others). IO tables report their factor costs (e.g. compensation of employees, consumption of fixed capital or net operating surplus) (Miller & Blair, 2009).

  13. 13.

    The sector encompasses coal and lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas, metal ores, other mining and quarrying products and mining support services.

  14. 14.

    Includes coke oven products and refined petroleum products.

  15. 15.

    The sector mainly covers electricity, transmission and distribution services, manufactured gas, distribution services of gaseous fuels through mains, steam and air conditioning supply services, natural water, water treatment and supply services.

  16. 16.

    If one assumes no shift towards cleaner production in those industries.

  17. 17.

    The sector covers basic iron and steel and ferro-alloys, tubes, pipes, hollow profiles and related fittings, of steel, other products of the first processing of steel, basic precious and other non-ferrous metals.

  18. 18.

    In some countries such as Germany and Poland, this finding is particularly relevant.

  19. 19.

    Sector covers basic chemicals, fertilisers and nitrogen compounds, plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms, pesticides and other agrochemical products, paints, varnishes and similar coatings, printing ink and mastics, soap and detergents and other chemical products.

  20. 20.

    The activities include glass and glass products, refractory products, clay building materials, other porcelain and ceramic products, cement, lime and plaster, articles of concrete, cement and plaster, cut, shaped and finished stone.

  21. 21.

    For non-metallic mineral products, the sector is present in the second or third layer, depending on the examined country.

  22. 22.

    The sector includes non-perennial crops, perennial crop, planting material: live plants, bulbs, tubers and roots, cuttings and slips, mushroom spawn, live animals and animal products, agricultural and animal husbandry services (except veterinary services), hunting and trapping and related services, forest trees and nursery services, wood in the rough, wild growing non-wood product, support services to forestry, fish and other fishing products; aquaculture products, support services to fishing.

  23. 23.

    Represents buildings and building construction works, roads and railways, construction works for roads and railways, constructions and construction works for utility projects; constructions and construction works for other civil engineering projects, demolition and site preparation works; electrical, plumbing and other construction installation works, building completion and finishing works, other specialised construction works.

  24. 24.

    See Miller and Blair, 2009; Cahen-Fourot et al., 2020.

  25. 25.

    Note that i is a column vector of the same dimension of Z.

  26. 26.

    Augustinovics, 1970; Beyers, 1976.

  27. 27.

    Note that g i,j includes both direct and indirect effects.

  28. 28.

    Cf. next part for full description of data.

  29. 29.

    OECD Statistics: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=IOTSI4_2018.

  30. 30.

    Total economy, product by product in million $.

  31. 31.

    The statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community, abbreviated as NACE, is the classification of economic activities in the European Union (EU).

  32. 32.

    For further descriptions, refer to the Appendix.

  33. 33.

    Exposed by Cahen-Fourot et al. (2020): The decarbonisation process might not be particularly detrimental for services activities (low dirty capital levels, low demand for fossil fuel).

  34. 34.

    OECD Statistics—“Data refer to total emissions of CO2 (CO2 emissions from energy use and industrial processes, e.g. cement production), CH4 (methane emissions from solid waste, livestock, mining of hard coal and lignite, rice paddies, agriculture and leaks from natural gas pipelines), N2O (nitrous oxide), HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), PFCs (perfluorocarbons), (SF6 +  NF3) (sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride), SOx (sulphur oxides), NOx (nitrogen oxides), CO (carbon monoxide), NMVOC (non-methane volatile organic compounds), PM2.5 (particulates less than 2.5 μm), PM10 (particulates less than 10 μm) and NH3 (ammonia)”.

  35. 35.

    These data cover the scope of our analysis (e.g. services are not included, imported emissions neither).

  36. 36.

    In primary inputs.

  37. 37.

    Remember that total coefficients are column sums of the S matrix, thus representing the cumulative impact of a drop in a sector’s primary inputs on GHG emissions of other sectors. As to interpret the coefficient of mining: a one-unit decrease (in monetary unit =  million $) in mining primary inputs leads to a drop in GHG of 0.029 Mt (CO2 eq.) across all other sectors in the economy. Looking at the S matrix and the impact of mining on coke and refined petroleum products (C19) we have: a one-unit decrease (in monetary unit =  million $) in mining primary inputs leads to a drop in GHG from the coke and refined petroleum industry of 0.020 Mt (CO2 eq.).

  38. 38.

    Note that for France, D–E is not among top sectors. We expect the latter to be due to the large share of nuclear power generation in the country.

  39. 39.

    Note that mining external coefficients are significantly high, embodying the ability of the sector to generate emissions in other GHG intensive sectors. Moreover, mining products are mainly imported from outside of the EU, thus explaining low amounts of emissions for the sector (although in Poland, the sector displays a high amount of emissions as the country is the biggest EU hard-coal producer Reuters, 2020).

  40. 40.

    The low level of external emissions coefficients of energy intensive sectors is due to the fact that downstream sectors are not huge polluting industries (e.g. machinery and equipment (C27), construction (F)).

  41. 41.

    We exclude respective country top sector itself, to abstract from internal emissions.

  42. 42.

    Although for electricity and gas, this argument depends on considered energy used (gas, coal).

  43. 43.

    Thus suggesting a strong effect of reducing gross domestic output in these sectors on other sectors’ GHG emissions.

  44. 44.

    Although mining is not emitting large amounts of emissions, cf. Table 5 in the Appendix.

  45. 45.

    Although most of them exhibit a weight of 0, the impact on downstream sectors remains higher compared to other industries.

  46. 46.

    Note that it is relevant in every country of our sample.

  47. 47.

    Not only to shift away from mining, but also because mining inputs are expected to be phased-out from the economic system by 2050.

  48. 48.

    Note that in some countries, decarbonising the power sector does not come as a priority compared to, for instance, transport sectors (e.g. France).

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Correspondence to Côme Billard .

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 4, 5, and 6

Table 4 NACE sectors
Table 6 GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq.), year 2015

1.1 Additional Information

Description of Sectors

A—Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

Non-perennial crops; Perennial crops; planting material: live plants, bulbs, tubers and roots, cuttings and slips; mushroom spawn; live animals and animal products; agricultural and animal husbandry services (except veterinary services); hunting and trapping and related services; forest trees and nursery services; wood in the rough; wild growing non-wood products; support services to forestry; fish and other fishing products; aquaculture products; support services to fishing.

B—Mining and Extraction of Energy Producing Products

Hard coal; lignite; crude petroleum; natural gas, liquefied or in gaseous state; iron ores; non-ferrous metal ores; stone, sand and clay; mining and quarrying products n.e.c.; support services to petroleum and natural gas extraction; support services to other mining and quarrying.

C10–12—Food Products, Beverages and Tobacco

Preserved meat and meat products; processed and preserved fish, crustaceans and molluscs; processed and preserved fruit and vegetables; vegetable and animal oils and fats; dairy products; grain mill products, starches and starch products; bakery and farinaceous products; other food products; prepared animal feeds; beverages; tobacco products.

C13–15—Textiles, Wearing Apparel, Leather and Related Products

Textile yarn and thread; woven textiles; textile finishing services; other textiles; wearing apparel, except fur apparel; articles of fur; knitted and crocheted apparel; tanned and dressed leather; luggage, handbags, saddlery and harness; dressed and dyed fur; footwear.

C16—Wood and of Products of Wood and Cork (Except Furniture)

Wood, sawn and planed; products of wood, cork, straw and plaiting materials

C17–18—Paper Products and Printing

Pulp, paper and paperboard; articles of paper and paperboard; printing services and services related to printing; reproduction services of recorded media.

C19—Coke and Refined Petroleum Products

Coke oven products; refined petroleum products.

C20–21—Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Products

Basic chemicals, fertilisers and nitrogen compounds, plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms; pesticides and other agrochemical products; paints, varnishes and similar coatings, printing ink and mastics; soap and detergents, cleaning and polishing preparations, perfumes and toilet preparations; other chemical products; man-made fibres; basic pharmaceutical products; pharmaceutical preparations.

C22—Rubber and Plastics Products

Rubber products; Plastic products.

C23—Other Non-metallic Mineral Products

Glass and glass products; refractory products; clay building materials; other porcelain and ceramic products; cement, lime and plaster; articles of concrete, cement and plaster; cut, shaped and finished stone; other non-metallic mineral products.

C24—Manufacture of Basic Metals

Basic iron and steel and ferro-alloys; tubes, pipes, hollow profiles and related fittings, of steel; other products of the first processing of steel; basic precious and other non-ferrous metals; casting services of metals.

C25—Fabricated Metal Products, Except Machinery and Equipment

Structural metal products; tanks, reservoirs and containers of metal; steam generators, except central heating hot water boilers; weapons and ammunition; forging, pressing, stamping and roll-forming services of metal; powder metallurgy; treatment and coating services of metals; machining; cutlery, tools and general hardware; other fabricated metal products.

C26—Computer, Electronic and Optical Products

Electronic components and boards; computers and peripheral equipment; communication equipment; consumer electronics; measuring, testing and navigating equipment; watches and clocks; irradiation, electromedical and electrotherapeutic equipment; optical instruments and photographic equipment; magnetic and optical media.

C27—Electrical Equipment

Electric motors, generators, transformers and electricity distribution and control apparatus; batteries and accumulators; wiring and wiring devices; electric lighting equipment; domestic appliances; other electrical equipment.

C28—Machinery and Equipment n.e.c

General-purpose machinery; other general-purpose machinery; agricultural and forestry machinery; metal forming machinery and machine tools Other special-purpose machinery.

C29—Motor Vehicles, Trailers and Semi-Trailers

Motor vehicles; bodies (coachwork) for motor vehicles; trailers and semi-trailers; parts and accessories for motor vehicles.

C30—Other Transport Equipment

Ships and boats; railway locomotives and rolling stock; air and spacecraft and related machinery; military fighting vehicles; transport equipment n.e.c.

C31–33—Other Manufacturing

Furniture; jewellery, bijouterie and related articles; musical instruments; sports goods; games and toys; medical and dental instruments and supplies; manufactured goods n.e.c.; repair services of fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment; installation services of industrial machinery and equipment.

D–E—Electricity, Gas, Water Supply, Sewerage, Waste and Remediation Services

Electricity, transmission and distribution services; manufactured gas; distribution services of gaseous fuels through mains; steam and air conditioning supply services; natural water; water treatment and supply services; sewerage services; sewage sludge; waste; waste collection services, waste treatment and disposal services; materials recovery services; secondary raw materials; remediation services and other waste management services.

F—Construction

Buildings and building construction works, roads and railways; construction works for roads and railways; constructions and construction works for utility projects; constructions and construction works for other civil engineering projects; demolition and site preparation works; electrical, plumbing and other construction installation works; building completion and finishing works; other specialised construction works.

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Billard, C., Creti, A. (2021). COVID-19 Recovery Packages and Industrial Emission Rebounds: Mind the Gap. In: Belaïd, F., Cretì, A. (eds) Energy Transition, Climate Change, and COVID-19. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79713-3_2

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