In the run-up to the United Nations climate Change conference in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December, many countries have been setting out their preliminary positions. The conference aims to set the terms for the agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
Senior scientists, economists and politicians have been warning about the dire necessity of reaching a comprehensive agreement. One such economist is Sir Nicholas Stern. He argues that the EU should impose a unilateral cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, irrespective of the any agreement in Copenhagen. The EU has pledged to increase its targeted cut from 20% to 30% only if substantive progress is made at the talks.
Other countries have set out their preliminary positions. China has offered to reduce its carbon intensity by 40% (i.e. the proportion of carbon emissions to GDP); the USA has offered to reduce emissions by 17% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels; and India has offered to reduce its carbon intensity by 24% over the same period.
However, as the Washington Post article below states, “During a weekend meeting, India, along with China, Brazil, South Africa and Sudan, decided it would not agree to legally binding emission cuts, international verification of reductions without foreign funding and technology, and imposition of trade barriers in the name of climate change.”
Meanwhile the news from Australia has come as a blow to those seeking to extend tradable permit schemes around the world. The Australian senate has rejected a bill to set up an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), designed to cut Australia’s carbon emissions by up to 25% below 2000 levels by 2020.
Copenhagen climate talks: Main issues Independent (30/11/09)
Factfile on UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen talks Independent (30/11/09)
Copenhagen summit: Is there any real chance of averting the climate crisis? Observer, James Hansen (29/11/09)
A heated debate Economist (26/11/09)
Getting warmer Economist (3/12/09)
Is it worth it? Economist (3/12/09)
Good policy, and bad Economist (3/12/09)
The Carbon Economy Economist (3/12/09)
Copenhagen climate summit: 50/50 chance of stopping catastrophe, Lord Stern says Telegraph (1/12/09)
UK Economist: Climate Skeptics are Confused U.S.News, Meera Selva (1/12/09)
Growing Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Ahead of Copenhagen Conference Voice of America, Michael Bowman (1/12/09)
EU ‘should cut emissions by 30%’ BBC News, Roger Harrabin (1/12/09)
Stern says Copenhagen could still save world Environmental Data Interactive Exchange (1/12/09)
Moves by U.S., China induce India to do its bit on climate Washington Post, Rama Lakshmi (2/12/09)
Why do climate deniers hold sway in Australia? Guardian, Fred Pearce (1/12/09)
Australian Senate defeats carbon trading bill Guardian, Toni O’Loughlin (2/12/09)
Failed CPRS ‘may lead to better plan’ Sydney Morning Herald (2/12/09)
Australia carbon laws fail, election possible Reuters, Rob Taylor (2/12/09)
Australian Senate rejects Kevin Rudd’s climate plan BBC News (2/12/09)
The following is the official conference site:
United Nations Climate Change Conference Dec 7–Dec 18 2009
- Why cannot tackling global warming be left totally to the market?
- To what extent can the market provide part of the solution to global warming?
- How can a cap-and-trade system (i.e. tradable permits) be used to achieve (a) emissions reductions; (b) an efficient way of achieving such reductions?
- Why could the atmosphere be described as a ‘global commons’? Does it have either or both of the features of non-excludability and non-rivalry (which are both features of a public good)?
- To what extent are climate change talks a prisoner’s dilemma game? How may the Nash equilibrium of no deal, or an unenforceable deal, be avoided?
At a three-day event from 27 to 29 November, people were given the opportunity to barter for works of art on display at the Rag Factory gallery in London. Works by many famous contemporary artists were displayed, although none of the works was signed and the artist’s name was not displayed.
The idea was that people would barter for works on their own merits rather than because of the name of the artist. People could offer anything they chose. They simply wrote the offer on a slip and then the artist would choose which ever offer appealed to them the most. Offers ranged from a lettuce, a curry and even a song, to a Ferrari and a person’s own kidney.
As Stephanie Hirschmiller writes in the third linked article below, “Bartering has long been a mechanism on which the art world spins – from Picasso exchanging sketches for meals and London’s YBAs running tabs at The Ivy in exchange for pieces of their work to adorn the venues walls. Even Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel, home to a slew of famous residents including Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas and William Burroughs would once accept art in lieu of rent from its cash strapped incumbents.”
So is barter a realistic alternative to the market – at least for works of art and some other items? Does it have any advantages? The following articles consider the issues.
Barter for Art (video) BBC Today Programme, Evan Davis (28/11/09)
Pick up an Emin for a song Independent, Annie Deakin (27/11/09)
Barter Economy The Handbook, Stephanie Hirschmiller (24/11/09)
Don’t believe the hype New Statesman, Stephanie Hegarty (27/11/09)
Saving on Art the Old-Fashioned Way New York Times, Alice Pfeiffer (23/11/09)
- What are the necessary conditions for successful barer to work? Can it ever be an efficient form of exchange?
- What are the advantages of barter over normal market exchange with money and prices?
- For what other products and services might barter be an appropriate form of exchange?
- Do you take part in barter at all? If so, under what circumstances and why?
Over the past year, the world has seen a massive change in the fortunes of Dubai. At one time, it was as if Dubai was immune from the credit crunch. Property prices rose and then rose again. Credit checks barely existed and anyone seemed to be able to get on the property ladder, including a large number of foreigners. Indeed, 75% of property in Dubai is owned by foreigners.
However, those living their dream in Dubai have entered their worst nightmare. Property prices have already fallen by 50% and further falls are predicted. Debt levels are at about $85 billion, although some suggest they could be closer to $100 billion. Oil prices have fallen as a result of the situation in Dubai, although they have recovered slightly in the past few days, partly boosted by an announcement by the United Arab Emirates central bank that it was providing additional liquidity to banks. Share prices across the world have also been adversely affected, but these also have experienced a recovery.
Dubai has acknowledged the extent of its debts by asking to delay repayments, but whilst some hope that the worst has passed, others are speculating that further debts may be revealed. Dubai asked for a six-month repayment freeze on debt issued by Dubai World and its unit Nakheel, a property developer. The fear of Dubai defaulting on its debts has continued to affect global markets and how quickly Dubai is able to recover may depend on the generosity of Abu Dhabi, its oil rich neighbour. It might be that Abu Dhabi only offer help in exchange for more control over Dubai.
Read the following articles and try answering the questions about this new example of a global issue that highlights the increasing interdependence of economies across the world.
What spoiled the party in Dubai? BBC News (27/11/09)
Dubai says not responsible for Dubai World debt Reuters, Rania Oteify and Tamara Walid (30/11/09)
Oil jumps on positive US data, waning Dubai worries AFP (30/11/09)
Dubai debt crisis should be a lesson to us all Times Online, John Waples (29/11/09)
US shares slide over Dubai fears BBC News (27/11/09)
European shares fall on Dubai fears, banks slip Reuters, Atal Prakash (30/11/09)
Dubai Debt Worries CNBC (30/11/09)
- What are the main causes behind the debt crisis in Dubai?
- If Abu Dhabi does step in, what do you think it will demand in return?
- Explain why oil prices have suffered as a result of Dubai’s debt crisis. Why have they recovered slightly? Illustrate this using demand and supply – don’t forget to consider elasticity!
- What lessons should we learn from this debt crisis to prevent it from happening again?
- Following Dubai’s debt crisis, share prices fell around the world. What’s the link between debt levels and share prices?
- Having listened to the CNBC report, do you think that tourism is enough to rescue Dubai or will intervention be required?
Should economists have foreseen the credit crunch? A few were warning of an overheated world economy with excessive credit and risk taking. Most economists prior to 2007/8, however, were predicting a continuation of steady economic growth. Inflation targeting, fiscal rules and increasingly flexible markets were the ingredients of this continuing prosperity. And then the crash happened!
So why did so few people see the downturn coming? Were the models used by economists fundamentally flawed, or was it simply a question of poor assumptions or poor data? Do we need a new way of modelling the economy, or is it simply a question of updating theories from the past? Should, for example, models become much more Keynesian? Should we abandon the new classical approach of assuming that markets are essentially good at pricing in risk and that herd behaviour will not be seriously destabilising?
The following podcast looks at these issues. “Aditya Chakrabortty’s joined in the studio by the Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliott, as well as Roger Bootle, the managing director of Capital Economics, and political economist and John Maynard Keynes biographer Robert Skidelsky. Also in the podcast, we hear from Nobel prize-winning economist, Elinor Ostrom, Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, and UN advisor and developmental economist Daniel Gay.”
The Business: A crisis of economics Guardian podcast (25/11/09)
See also the following news items from the Sloman Economics news site:
Keynes is dead; long live Keynes (3/10/09)
Learning from history (3/10/09)
Macroeconomics – Crisis or what? (6/8/09)
The changing battle grounds of economics (27/7/09)
Repeat of the Great Depression – or learning the lessons from the past? (23/6/09)
Animal spirits (30/4/09)
Keynes – do we need him more than ever? (26/10/08)
- Why did most economists fail to predict the credit crunch and subsequent recession? Was it a problem with the models that were used or the data that was put into these models, or both?
- What was the Washington consensus? To what extent did this consensus contribute to the current recession?
- What is meant by systemic risk? How does this influence the usefulness of ‘micro’ financial models?
- What particular market failures were responsible for the credit crunch?
- What is meant by ‘rational behaviour’? Is it reasonable to assume that people are rational?
- Is macroeconomics too theoretical or too mathematical (or both)? If you think it is, how can macroeconomics be reformed to improve its explanatory and predictive power?
- Does a ‘really good economist’ need to have a good grounding in a range of social sciences and in economic history?