The traditional macroeconomic issues are well-known: unemployment, inflation, economic growth and the balance of payments. However, the environment, and specifically climate change, have become increasingly important objectives for the global economy. Over recent months, many countries have announced new policies and measures to tackle climate change.
The costs of not tackling climate change are well-documented, but what about the costs of actually tackling it? Why is a changing climate receiving such attention and what are the economics behind this problem? The articles below consider this important issue.
Tougher climate target unveiled BBC News (16/10/08)
Brown proposes £60 billion climate fund BBC News (26/6/09)
EU says tackling climate change will cost global economy €400 billion a year Irish Times, Frank McDonald (26/6/09)
Obama makes 11th-hour climate change push Washington AFP, Ammenaul Parisse (25/6/09)
UK to outline emission cut plans BBC News (26/6/09)
What’s new in the EU: EU examines impact of climate change on jobs The Jerusalem Post, Ari Syrquin (25/6/09)
Climate change: reducing risks and costs The Chronicle Herald, Jennifer Graham (25/6/09)
Obama to regulate ‘pollutant’ CO2 BBC News (17/4/09)
Billions face climate change risk BBC News (6/5/07)
Obama vows investment in science BBC News (27/4/09)
Japan sets ‘weak’ climate target BBC News (10/6/09)
- Why is climate change an example of market failure?
- Apart from imposing limits on emissions, what other interventionist policies could be used? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of them?
- According to the EU, the cost of tackling climate change is very high. So, why are we doing it? See if you can carry out a cost-benefit analysis!
- Why is climate change presenting a problem for insurance companies? Can it be overcome?
- Why is finance such an issue between developed and developing countries in relation to tackling climate change?
- What is the likely impact of climate changing policies on the labour market? Will we be able to adapt in the current economic crisis?
In a major break from the policy of the Bush administration, President Obama has announced that the US government will regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency has found that CO2 emissions pose a ‘threat to public health and welfare’. This finding allows regulation to be imposed.
At the end of March the Democrats in the House of Representatives released a draft climate change Bill. Central to this would be a system of tradable permits. ‘Under this program, covered entities must have tradable federal allowances for each ton of pollution emitted into the atmosphere.’ (See 4th article below.)
U.S. in Historic Shift on CO2 Wall Street Journal (18/4/09)
Obama to regulate ‘pollutant’ CO2 BBC News (17/4/09)
US says CO2 is a danger to human health Financial Times (18/4/09)
House releases draft climate change bill Power Engineering International (31/3/09)
U.S. Carbon Emissions Trading Core of Clean Energy Bill Environment News Service (31/3/09)
Environmental Capital (see also) Wall Street Journal (31/3/09)
Who’s going to get the carbon pollution credits? Christian Science Monitor (14/4/09)
- To what extent is the EPA ruling compatible with the bill proposed by the Democrats?
- Is a ‘cap-and-trade’ system (i.e. tradable permits) the best way of dealing with climate change?
- What lessons can the USA draw from the European Emissions Trading Scheme in designing its own tradable permits scheme?
EU leaders at a Brussels summit have agreed a plan to cut emissions. This will involve the 27 EU countries cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. The aim is also to try to raise renewable energy sources to 20% of total energy use. The package has become known as the 20/20/20 package, but scientists have already argued that these measures may not be sufficient to prevent serious climate change.
Fiddling with words as the world melts The Economist (18/12/08)
Climate deal is far too little too late Guardian (15/12/08)
EU leaders claim historic agreement on cutting pollution Guardian (13/12/08)
Climate change: EU leaders reach compromise deal on emissions Guardian (12/12/08)
World needs ‘climate revolution’ BBC News Online (11/12/08)
EU climate package explained BBC News Online (5/12/08)
EU leaders reach new climate deal BBC News Online (12/12/08)
- Identify two external costs that result from climate change.
- Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the impact of the EU climate change deal on the market for electricity.
- Discuss the extent to which the EU climate change deal will lead to an increase in the supply of renewable energy sources. How quickly are these changes in supply likely to take effect?
- Examine two other policies that national governments could implement to reduce carbon emissions.
The widening of the M6 will cost £3bn or £1000 an inch. What does this fact tell us about the government’s green priorities? Are we really leading the world on climate change as the government likes to claim? In the article below Ashley Seager (Economics Correspondent for the Guardian) looks at these issues and argues that we may be the poor man of Europe when it comes to ‘green’ policies.
Green means slow to this government Guardian (6/8/07)
||Explain what Ashley Seager means by the sentence “What the government has also not done is send out new “price signals”, as economists call them” (paragraph 7).
||Explain what is meant by a feed-in tariff (FIT). Why does Ashley Seager argue that this is a vital policy tool in the fight against climate change?
||Discuss two policies that the government could adopt to help raise the proportion of renewable energy generated in the UK.
March 2007 has seen a lot of activity in government circles relating to the environment and environmental legislation. The EU has agreed a renewable energy target for all members while the UK government has released its own climate change bill. The Carbon Trust has then released a one-year pilot of a carbon labelling scheme, with Walkers Crisps being the first brand to bear the carbon labels. The aim is to increase consumers’ awareness of the carbon footprint of the goods they are buying. The articles linked below look at all these issues.
EU agrees renewable energy target BBC News Online (9/3/07)
EU seeks converts to eco-stoicism BBC News Online (9/3/07)
Navarra embraces green energy BBC News Online (9/3/07)
How Europe can save the world Guardian (11/3/07)
Carbon labelling scheme launched BBC News Online (15/3/07)
Labels reveal goods’ carbon cost BBC News Online (16/3/07)
New law in the climate jungle BBC News Online (13/3/07)
||Explain the difference between private costs and external costs. Identify five external costs that arise from the generation of electricity by conventional means.
||Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact on the market for energy of increased use of energy generated from renewable sources.
||Evaluate the likely effectiveness of the carbon labelling scheme introduced by the Carbon Trust.