The real problem is not the climate, or the lack of climate-science knowledge, and it’s not the lack of a common aspiration or goal. It’s not even the lack of blueprints for global action. The trouble is that negotiations end in acrimony or hollow victory statements. So the problem is to find and fix the cause of these negotiation failures. Unfortunately,
COP21 in Paris will block any chance of a 2C scenario
because it makes real cooperation impossible.
This requires some understanding of the science of cooperation, and how to use it to design an agreement and its negotiation process. This site and the free eBook linked here are dedicated to explaining this approach.
About the authors:
- MacKay was UK Chief Scientist for Energy and Climate.
- Stiglitz and Tirole have Nobel prizes.
- Dion was chair of COP 11, and was Canada’s Minister of the Environment.
- Nordhaus has published on climate policy for 40 years.
- Weitzman and Cooper are Harvard professors and experts in international relations and environmental econ respectively.
- Ockenfels is a top behavioral economist and winner of the Leibniz prize.
- All papers are very recent.
The Essence of Global Carbon Pricing
A uniform global price is efficient—it saves a lot of money compared with present policies. But that’s not its biggest advantage. The essence of the climate dilemma is free riding. Emitting CO2 imposes a cost on the world, but the emitting country suffers only a small fraction of the cost. Everyone knows this.
But this causes a severe problem for negotiations—if a country agrees in the negotiation to spend another billion cutting emissions, that money will go almost entirely towards helping other countries. So the free-rider problem enters the negotiations and the result is either stalemate or a weak treaty.
If we let everyone determine their own commitment, as in Paris, we get a broad agreement that does next to nothing. But there’s hope.
Elinor Ostrom (Nobel prize in 2009) spent her life studying common-pool resource problems and how these were solved when there was no government. That’s exactly the situation with the climate dilemma. She found the keys to successful solutions were always reciprocity and trust. All the sciences dealing with cooperation now agree on this (political science, psychology and behavioral economics).
Reciprocity means “I will if you will.” In a group this requires a common commitment. The Kyoto negotiators tried ten common-commitment formulas and failed—because they only tried commitments based on emission quantities. And the right quantity varies from country to country in extremely complex ways.
The breakthrough explained in Global Carbon Pricing, is that a uniform global price is the perfect common commitment. This provides the necessary reciprocity and it solves the free-rider problem. Download the book and read the “Purpose” and the “Preface.” These are short and will open your eyes to a fresh new approach.
One thing to remember (almost everyone gets this wrong): “Price does NOT mean a carbon tax, and price does NOT mean cap-and-trade. Basically it means you can charge for carbon emission either way. If there’s a global price commitment, every country could meet that commitment with fossil fuel taxes or with cap-and-trade markets. Without this understanding there is endless bickering. Don’t get this wrong.