May 21, 2008—Can all developing countries grow as fast as the fastest growing economies without causing global greenhouse gases to spiral out of control?
The answer is no, unless technology and new techniques are used to “radically” reduce the amount of energy needed to produce goods, as well as cut CO2 emissions, says the Growth Report. “That is the only way developing countries can grow rapidly without subjecting the world to potentially catastrophic global warming,” it adds.
Climate models suggest coastal erosion from global warming may threaten more than 1 million people by 2050 in the Nile delta in Egypt, the Mekong delta in Vietnam, and the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh, notes the report.
It adds that fast-growing developing countries like China and India that generate a lot of CO2 must take part in efforts to mitigate global warming if the world is to succeed. However, they are resisting, partly because committing to cut emissions might threaten their growth, and partly because they consider such commitments unfair as most of the CO2 in the atmosphere was generated by high income countries.
The report says that uncertainties about the impact of climate change and the cost of cutting carbon will be resolved over time. The world, therefore, should not lock itself into precise, quantitative commitments for the far-flung future. “It should anticipate that information will improve—and leave some options open.”
“In particular, for developing countries that are on a fast growth trajectory, we need to be very sensitive on the way in which targets are set for them and on the way in which technology and financial systems are applied to countries,” says Lord John Browne, former CEO of British Petroleum.
Global Carbon Tax or ‘Cap and Trade’ Urged
Nations should instead consider a global carbon tax or a “cap and trade” system that would allow countries to emit a given amount of CO2 or sell permits to other countries. Enough greenhouse gas permits should be awarded to developing countries to allow them to grow, says the report.
A carbon tax or cap and trade system will take years to design, negotiate and implement, it adds. In the meantime, advanced nations should cut emissions aggressively and pay more generous subsidies to energy efficiency and carbon reduction technologies.