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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Global Environmental Change
Title Renewable energy policy as an enabler of fossil fuel subsidy reform? Applying a socio-technical perspective to the cases of South Africa and Tunisia
Volume 45
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers 99-110
URL https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0959378016306057/1-s2.0-S0959378016306057-main.pdf?_tid=402c5b20-b425-11e7-8​5af-00000aab0f6b&acdnat=1508345954_7a7b4d00b76b9d282fb99b8f1a190741
Fossil fuel subsidies are a key barrier for economic development and climate change mitigation. While the
plunge in international fuel prices has increased the political will to introduce fossil fuel subsidy reforms, recently
introduced reforms may risk backsliding when fuel prices rebound − particularly if they fail to address
the underlying mechanisms that create demand for low fossil fuel prices. Extant literature has mostly focused on
the consequences of fossil fuel subsidies, including their economic or environmental impact, and the social
contract that make their reform difficult. In this paper, we complement the extant literature with a sociotechnical
perspective of fossil fuel subsidies to explore the systemic mechanisms that often keep subsidies in
place and how these mechanisms can be weakened. Specifically, in case studies of the electricity sectors in South
Africa and Tunisia, we trace the socio-technical foundations of their fossil fuel subsidy regimes and the potential
of renewable energy policy in disrupting this regime We discuss the relevance of our results for national policymakers
wishing to implement and international actors wishing to support fossil fuel subsidy reform. In
particular, we highlight that the socio-technical perspective of fossil fuel subsidies offers new intervention points
for subsidy reform and that policy designs and assistance should strengthen technologies and actors that are most
likely to destabilize the fossil fuel subsidy regime.

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