Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs director of the intellectual property and free trade Tim Wilson writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:
The high priests of climate change are wrapping up their latest meeting today in Poznan, Poland, where the United Nations is hosting a conference on global warming. But don’t expect a real solution to emerge. While most of these politicians and negotiators concur global warming is a man-made problem, there is still fierce opposition to the quickest method for spreading man-made solutions: free trade.
Numerous technologies already are on the market or in development that can increase energy efficiency or directly reduce the volume of global emissions. Solar panels provide an alternative source of power generation for countries currently dependent on carbon-dioxide-emitting energy such as coal. Clean coal technologies can significantly reduce pollution from existing coal-fired power stations. Fluorescent lamps can increase energy efficiency over traditional lighting systems.
But trade protectionism inhibits the international spread of these and other technologies, especially to high-polluting developing countries. Low-carbon technologies are classed as “manufacture” and are treated as an industrial good on each country’s tariff schedules. Developing countries have high tariffs on industrial goods as a form of industry protection. A 2007 World Bank study found that of four major low-carbon technologies — clean coal, wind, solar and fluorescent lamps — tariff and nontariff barriers can be as high as 160% among the top 15 greenhouse-gas-emitting developing countries. Such products also face stiff nontariff barriers like quotas and import ceilings.