Foreign Policy Blogs

More Road to Bali

The U.S. government seems to be making a truly constructive move on climate change for a change.  The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced an agreement today between the U.S. and the E.U. proposing "eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services, particularly clean energy technologies."  Trade Representative Susan Schwab will go to Bali to the Trade Ministers meeting there to recommend that the WTO incorporate this proposal.  According to "data on environmental indicators available from the World Bank and World Resources Institute, countries that trade more environmental goods either have less pollution or consume energy more efficiently, or both."

The proposal builds on the work of a new report from the World Bank:  International Trade and Climate Change: Economic, Legal, and Institutional Perspectives.  The report finds that "a multilateral liberalization of renewable energy sources or an agreement to remove fossil fuel subsidies would equally serve climate change objectives."

I would suggest the former idea is feasible, not the latter.  I don't mean to suggest that we are entering the realm of political fantasy, at least as far as the United States goes, but if the WTO nations can't find agreement on removing $300 billion in annual supports to the U.S., E.U., and Japan's farmers , in order to free up a trillion dollars worth of agricultural output by the developing world , then how can anyone expect to close up the candy shop at the U.S. Treasury that the oil, gas and coal folks have been shopping from for many long years?  Witness the brouhaha that removing $16 billion in tax breaks the oil and gas industry are getting now , while oil's selling at nearly $100 a barrel , then consider how easy it would be to knock even more of the subsidies they enjoy out of the picture.  (See "Denial Of Oil And Gas Tax Benefits" at the House of Representatives' tax portion of the proposed congressional energy bill.  This good bit of legislation is under heavy fire, though, from the industry and the White House, so the Congressional leadership may jettison it.)

But more power to the U.S. and E.U. trade mandarins if they can, as the World Bank suggests, increase trade in climate and clean energy technologies an additional 7-14 percent annually by removing tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

Meanwhile, in what might be construed as a hopeful (but not necessarily realistic) headline, the "Environmental News Service" claims Fossil Fuels’ Free Ride Is Over.  The ENS reports that at the American Council On Renewable Energy's fourth annual conference, participants all agreed that "the day of reckoning is long overdue" for a carbon price.  Conferees included a representative from British Petroleum, their Group VP for Alternative Energy.  She's got a reasonable argument, but . you can judge.  Go here for a number of the conferees' presentations, including the one from the BP rep.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change