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?
In the second of the linked articles below, Andy Atkins, from Friends of the Earth, argues that the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has failed to make any substantial cuts is emissions and is creating the opportunity for carbon traders to become very rich in increasingly complex financial products based on carbon. “This risks the development of sub-prime carbon and financial crisis – with a double whammy this time of environmental catastrophe to match.” He thus argues for alternative methods of reducing carbon, such as green taxes, tough regulation and government investment in green technology
But is the ETS a failure? In the third article, Alexandra Galin, from the Carbon Markets & Investors Association, argues that the second phase of ETS (2008–12) is much more successful than the first (2005–7) and that substantial carbon reductions have been achieved. Her argument is that a carbon trading scheme’s success in cutting carbon emissions does not depend on the trading system, but on the tightness of the cap. In other words, in a ‘cap-and-trade’ system, it is the cap that reduces emissions; the trading simply achieves the reductions in the most efficient way.
Friends of the Earth attacks carbon trading (including video) Guardian, Ashley Seager (5/11/09)
Don’t let the reckless City trade carbon Guardian, Andy Atkins (5/11/09)
The European emissions trading scheme is now a success Guardian, Alexandra Galin (17/11/09)
Storm could follow calm in EU carbon market Reuters, Nina Chestney (11/11/09)
Carbon market clouded by uncertainty BBC News, Damian Kahya (11/11/09)
See also: Gathering momentum on tackling climate change? (May 2009 blog)
Details of the European Emissions Trading Scheme can be found at:
Emission Trading System (EU ETS) European Commission, Environment DG
- Explain how the European Emissions Trading Scheme works.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the ETS as a means of reducing carbon emissions?
- Compare theses advantages and disadvantages with those of green taxes.
- How does the market price of carbon traded within the scheme reflect the toughness of the policy? What else might the price reflect?
- What is likely to happen to the carbon price in the coming months? Explain.
The following video and audio podcasts look at resistance by the US oil and coal industries to measures to curb the consumption of oil and coal. Despite the clearly estabilised link between burning fossil fuels and global warming, many in the two industries reject, or at least question, the evidence. After all, it is in their commerical interests to promote the consumption of fossil fuels!
Elsewhere in the USA, interesting scientific developments are taking place to combat global warming. One measure is the production of ‘green oil’ produced from algae. Growing the algae absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.
In few areas are economic arguments so intertwined with political ones. The podcasts look at some of the issues.
Energy policy divides in the US BBC News, David Shukman (2/11/09)
America’s energy policy dilemma BBC News, David Shukman (2/11/09)
Texas takes on green energy BBC News, Roger Harrabin (1/06/09)
Ethical Man: Green revolution in Texas BBC Newsnight, Justin Rowlatt (11/3/09)
Climate plans part of wider battle over American freedom Ethical Man (Justin Rowlatt) blog (BBC) (3/11/09)
Obama urges climate change effort BBC News (3/11/09)
Al Gore on tackling global warming BBC Newsnight (4/11/09)
Al Gore on beating the ‘oil habit’ BBC Today Programme (4/11/09)
- To what extent will the free market result in a shift to greener energy sources? Why will any shifts towards greener fuels still not result in the socially or environmentally optimum use of fossil and ‘green’ fuels without government intervention?
- What policies could governments adopt to internatlise the externalities involved in burning fossil fuels?
- How suitable are cap-and-trade policies (tradable permits) for tackling global warming? What conditions are necessary for such policies to be effective?
- Why is tackling climate change politically difficult for (a) individual countries and (b) the world as a whole? How is game theory relevant to your analysis?
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?