Saturday, August 23, 2014

‘Free Riders’ Undermine Climate Treaty Hopes

Sins of emission: pollution haze over Beijing’s Forbidden City (Credit: Yinan Chen via Wikimedia Commons) Click to enlarge.
An effective treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will probably remain elusive, according to a new research study, because the steps likely to win political agreement would be ineffective, while those that could produce results would be politically unfeasible..

In fact, the Norwegian researchers conclude, the world is actually further away from an effective climate agreement today than it was 15 years ago, when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted.

The research is the work of a team from the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (Cicero) and Statistics Norway, the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The key question the researchers asked was what conditions could achieve an international agreement that would substantially reduce global climate emissions, in view of the extremely slow progress in the UN negotiations.  They concluded that there is little basis for optimism.

Professor Jon Hovi, of the University of Oslo and Cicero, headed the project.  He says there are three essentials for a robust agreement:
  • It must include all key countries - in other words, all the major emitters.
  • It must require each member country to make substantial emissions cuts.
  • Member countries must actually comply with their commitments.
While emissions cuts benefit all countries, he says, each country must bear the full costs of cutting its own emissions.  So each is sorely tempted to act as a “free rider” - to enjoy the gains from other countries’ cuts while ignoring its own obligations.

“Cutting emissions is expensive, and powerful interests in every country proffer arguments as to why that particular country should be exempted,” Professor Hovi explains.  “This inclines the authorities of all countries to take decisions that make them free riders.”

“We must eliminate free riding,” Professor Hovi says.  “Each and every country must be certain that the other countries are also doing their part.  It’s the only viable option.”

He thinks any country avoiding its treaty commitments must face consequences.  “Free riding must be met with concrete sanctions.  The question is what type of enforcement could conceivably work and, if such a system exists, would it be politically possible to implement it.”

He and his colleagues recommend financial deposits, administered by an international secretariat.  At ratification, each country would deposit a significant amount of money, and continue to do so annually until the agreed emissions reductions start.  The total amount deposited by each country should match the cost of its commitments.

‘Free Riders’ Undermine Climate Treaty Hopes

No comments:

Post a Comment