Larry Summers Critiques Carbon Trading & Then Supports the Imperial Powers


Summers, Lawrence. 2007. “We Need To Bring Climate Idealism Down To Earth.” Financial Times (30 April): p. 13.

“There is a very real danger that the global cap and trade approach directed at achieving the rapid emissions reductions enshrined in the Kyoto protocol — now favoured by most European governments — could be ineffective or even counterpoductive by substituting for more realistic approaches to the problem. Kyoto is now the only game in town for those who do not want to be ostriches with respect to global climate change and so one has to hope for its ultimate success. But it is surely useful to try to be clear about the potential pitfalls, as I am in this column, and as a matter of prudence to consider alternative approaches if the Kyoto approach does not succeed.”

“First, the Kyoto approach depends on the questionable premise that nations will, in fact, be bound by binding targets or penalties for not meeting them. It is instructive in this regard to consider the history of the Maastricht Treaty within the European Union. It addressed fiscal targets directly under the control of governments over the relatively short term within a group of countries that had already achieved a high degree of cohesion. It broke down almost immediately when it looked like the targets would not be binding for big countries, with the goals abandoned and no payment of even the modest penalties.”

“Second, carbon markets are invitations to engage in pork-barrel corporate subsidy politics on a massive scale. If greenhouse gas emissions are to be substantially reduced, the value of the associated emissions rights will be in the tens of billions of dollars. While in principle emission permits could be auctioned, in practice they are always allocated administratively. It should not be surprising that businesses that can pass on carbon costs to their consumers are excited about schemes that compensate for these costs by allocating them permits related to their existing emissions levels. As investigations by this newspaper have highlighted, the clean development mechanism has resulted in substantial payments for emissions reductions that would have occurred anyway or could have been achieved at negligible cost. There is even reason to think that certain industrial gas emissions may have been increased so that credit could be claimed for their abatement.”

“The truth about climate change policy is that developing countries are where most of the future action has to be. They will account for 75 per cent of the increase in emissions over the next quarter century and are now making the infrastructure investments that will shape their future economies.”


2 comments so far

  1. Martin Langeland on

    A few first world policies might also change.
    A ‘Man on tho Moon” type mandate to convert all federal government vehicles to electric power within 5ive years. This reduces gasoline consumption and stops wasting electricity lost on the web and gets the production cost of EVs competitive.

  2. Martin Langeland on

    Sorry, fumble fingers struck again.
    Second: remake the railway network to provide a modern wheel and spoke freight handling system with the object of eliminating all long haul trucking within a decade.
    Third transfer all current oil subsidies to cover basic and applied renewable, clean, energy research.
    Forth Think tank projects to develop new model building codes and planning models which will encourage urban density with the suburban amenities that our culture requires.
    These are just nuts and bolts stuff which should be obvious to any who think government can work if the effort is made. I think it is past time we tried.
    [rant control resumed]

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