Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Support for Contraction and Convergence and Sanctions on Rogue States: By the UK Foresight Directorate

A report that has been going around a while here in the UK was just brought to my attention again, it covers some pretty interesting ideas.

This report is the result of work by the Orwellianly named 'Foresight Directorate' that exists to look ahead with long term vision--the opposite of what we are taught politicians do.

But before we get to excited it's worth remembering this is basically a think tank, the ideas are not gaurenteed to go anywhere. Here is a look at how the future looks if theire research is implemented.

"Regions and local authorities have followed the lead of theirgovernments and run local initiatives to reduce travel demand; and veryfew governments have opted out of the international Contraction and Convergence Agreement to reduce global emissions. Political and economicsanctions are imposed through the United Nations on rogue states thatdon’t comply.”

The fairly complete disclaimer is here:

"The views are not the official point of view of anyorganisation or individual, are independent of Government and do not constitute government policy."
I like the part about rogue states having economic sanctions levied, this is an idea that i had a while back and i believe the green party also supports the concept.

The way i see it is that countries bound by a carbon limit are accruing environmental/social benefits for the whole planet. These benefits will cost the involved countries a portion of their income, it is theifore fair that any imports from outwith this carbon constrained group of countries should have to pay this same price of carbon as an import tarrif, otherwise environmentally damaging policies in non-engaged countries are being encouraged by economic distortions. Why aren't we doing this in 2006? it's not something that requires a technical breakthrough!


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At 11:20 PM, Blogger Heikki Korpela said...

The idea of some sort of sanctions against countries may have first-hand appeal because it sounds fair and just: if you harm other people and our environment, there should be a price to pay.

In general, "polluter pays" is a good principle. However, when applied to countries, the approach has at least two problems:

1) If it punishes entire countries, it's rather a blunt weapon. While it may give progressive political movements in, say, USA, some aid with their domestic demands, it may also harm progress there.

Climate-friendly companies and organizations (cities, states) might happily embrace the idea of USA joining international agreements on climate change. The agreements would probably benefit their own efforts WRT competitiveness since others would have to pay, too. Further, early starters would get all the benefits in the market and could sell their know-how and technology to other organizations lagging behind.

The same organizations are not necessarily very enthusiastic about sanctions that would harm USA as a whole: they would also harm their own interests and do nothing for their relative competitiveness. With this support gone, any progressive political movement would have a tougher time. In addition, they would have to cope with the "they're all banded against us"-feeling that any international sanctions is bound to create in at least some parts of the population.

As the Finnish president, Mrs. Halonen, just told Al'Jazeera: "We're being asked a lot of the time why we're so friendly with this or that government that's not entirely democratic. Now, an isolation tactic might have been helpful earlier in the history, like with the South-African government and apartheid. But the world has changed, and nowadays the approach simply doesn't work. You need cooperation."

Of course, you could say that sanctions should only be targeted at specific sectors; optimally, at specific products and companies. A nice idea, but not very practical to implement. How do you get a a company to agree to report their emissions even if it's harmful to them? This isn't something you can extract from the existing UNFCCC framework, either, since you need per-product information. And if you have the measures to put enough pressure on companies to report how badly they are doing, you're probably quite close to being able to simply force them to switch technologies anyways without having to use any winding route...

2) It's politically not very realistic.

If we do accept the idea of comparative advantage (that free trade benefits both parties), why would the industry in, say, Europe, like the idea of hurting themselves? Lots of the materials, components, services, aso. that are used by companies in Europe are manufactured in the US -- and oftentimes, other alternatives are lacking in some way. So, in the end, sanctions against US would mean that stuff manufactured in EU and consumed in EU would become more expensive. Hard to see a strong political movement behind that objective.

Also, I wouldn't use sanctions against any country that is simply "not bound by a carbon limit". These include tiger countries like China and Brazil, which still have very low emissions per capita, a different socio-economic and political reality and might need a different soft of leadership altogether in the CC negotiations. (There's some analysis of the leadership needed in international CC negotations in e.g. Towards a Post-2012 Climate Change Regime, see pp. 117-120).

Further, experts in the field are of two minds about whether this sort of scenario is at all feasible WRT WTO rules. Some say yes, some say nay.


Then again, the _threat_ of international sanctions might be a powerful tool to aid political movements in Australia and US. It's something the movements there may use as a tool: "we need to grasp new technology and new approaches to avoid being isolated".


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