For any carbon reduction scheme to succeed in reducing global carbon emissions, the plan itself must be global in nature. The problem is, the world’s two biggest emerging powers and carbon emitters, China and India, have no interest in joining any such pact.
That was made all the more evident today, when Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh informed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the country for diplomatic talks, that India would oppose any push for legally binding carbon emissions caps. Earlier this week, he said:
There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have been among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions. And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.”
Ramesh was back in the news again today, this time rejecting the science behind global warming and calling Western countries out for unnecessary alarmism:
We have to get out of the preconceived notion, which is based on western media, and invest our scientific research and other capacities to study Himalayan atmosphere. Science has its limitation. You cannot substitute the knowledge that has been gained by the people living in cold deserts through everyday experience.”
Ramesh reiterated his stance that India would not enter into any carbon reduction policy or treaty, which certainly undermines the argument for a U.S. cap and trade policy. (Of course, there are many other reasons not do move forward with cap and trade.) Unless other countries are under the same economic pressures that cap and trade would impose on the U.S., American companies will simply move operations overseas and any reductions in emissions domestically will simply be offset by emissions increases elsewhere. The economic harm inflicted by the legislation would be for naught, since global emissions reductions would be negligible.
His remarks on global warming messaging should not be taken lightly, either. According to a new study from The Science and Public Policy Institute, “the federal Government has a near-monopsony on climate science funding. This distorts the science towards self-serving alarmism.”
Key findings of the study can be found here. Forget trading gold and silver and other commodities. The study finds that “[c]arbon trading worldwide reached $126 billion in 2008. Banks, which profit most, are calling for more. Experts are predicting the carbon market will reach $2 – $10 trillion in the near future. Hot air will soon be the largest single commodity traded on global exchanges.”
Ramesh’s rebuke also speaks to the devastating economic reality of inflexible emissions caps. It is noteworthy that he felt the need to point out that global environmental policy must “[take] note of the special concerns of countries like India for continuing with their path of economic growth with the objective of poverty eradication.”
The implicit message is simple: emissions caps will inflict unacceptable economic hardship on millions of the poorest Indians. It’s not hard to understand India’s reasoning, either. Poverty alleviation is a far more serious and immediately valuable goal than the nebulous call to reduce emissions for marginal potential decreases in global temperatures.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the announcement raises the prospect of protectionist policies with India that could exacerbate the adverse economic effects of a cap and trade program. The Waxman-Markey global warming bill requires the implementation of carbon-based tariffs if China and India fail to implement their own emissions regulations by 2020. If and when that occurs, India will likely retaliate with tariffs of its own.
This is an especially troubling prospect given India’s status as an emerging world economy. The last thing the U.S. should do is to jeopardize the competitiveness of its firms in establishing a foothold in one of the world’s fastest growing consumer market.
But it’s good to see that India isn’t drinking the cap and trade Kool-Aid, valuing economic growth and prosperity over uncertain environmental gains. U.S. lawmakers and diplomats want countries like India and China to follow our lead, but perhaps we should be following theirs.