To limit dangerous global warming, the world must transition to a low-carbon economy. But this energy transition is moving too slowly – not because of a lack in technology or public support, but because of social, political, and technical barriers.

These interwoven barriers form the foundation of “carbon lock-in”, whereby ongoing investment in fossil fuel development becomes self-reinforcing and, consequently, inhibits the growth of the new green economy. Reducing global emissions requires that we address and “unlock” this entrenched high-carbon system.

The SEI Initiative on Carbon Lock-In aims to bring this issue to the forefront of climate and energy policy-making. Research will reveal how and why carbon lock-in is perpetuated – both within countries and globally – and will identify policies and strategies to break dependence on high-carbon industries. This initiative will also explore how international regimes, such as the UN Framework on Climate Change, can guide the transition away from fossil fuels.

This initiative takes a multidisciplinary approach, combining expertise on energy systems, economics, sociology, political science and health to answer a crucial question: How can society tackle carbon lock-in, and make space for a low-carbon future?

The Carbon Lock-In Initiative builds on SEI’s existing project-based work on carbon lock-in and work conducted in the previous initiative on fossil fuels and climate change.