Discouraging Cleaning

Submitted without (much) comment:

[Link] Foreign businesses have embraced an obscure United Nations-backed program as a favored approach to limiting global warming. But the early efforts have revealed some hidden problems.

Under the program, businesses in wealthier nations of Europe and in Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer ones as a way of staying within government limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles.

Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan.

Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a far more powerful effect on global warming than carbon dioxide emissions, the foreign businesses must pay a premium far beyond the cost of the actual cleanup.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why corporations have to pay to clean up. The whole idea of carbon trading is that countries and corporations pay one another for the right to pollute more, not to pollute less.

I suppose part of it is the idea that it’s imperialist for first-world companies to focus on reducing emissions in the third world. Burden sharing would dictate that the first world focus on reducing its own emissions first. But in terms of bang to the buck, it’s a lot easier to lower third world emission levels to first world levels; although per capita developed countries emit much more greenhouse gases than developing countries, per dollar of GDP they emit a lot less. Since things like factory emissions are determined more by the size of the economy than by population, it makes more sense to encourage existing green technologies in developing countries.

(I think it’s via Appletree, but I don’t remember)

One Response to Discouraging Cleaning

  1. gordo says:

    Yeah, it was via appletree. Thanks for the link.

    And I have to agree. The way things are now, most of the carbon-trading money goes to middlemen, rather than to actual cleanup. And if it’s imperialism for European countries to pay for upgrades to Chinese factories, then I think it’s the one form of imperialism we can all embrace.

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