K. Edward Renner, PhD
The goal of the UN Climate Summits is to reach an agreement on a standard for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. The previous summits have failed because the US and China, as the two major players, have each made proposals that were largely self-serving, but which would severely impact the other.
The failure is not being unable to define a "fair" standard. The environmental sciences have already given us all of the information we need.
The Developed Nations, such as the US, must reduce consumption to significantly smaller amount. The Developing Nations, such as China, cannot continue their rapid economic industrial growth at the cost of destroying the bio-capacity of the planet. As essential partners, the Least Developed Nations -- the lungs of the earth – need to be compensated for the restoration of the damage already done to their bio-capacity.
Toward this end, the UN has established a Green Climate Fund to enable the Least Developed Nations to participate in the global economy as essential partners by restore their bio-capacity. The high emission countries, however, have not yet provided any of the required funding.
Clearly, fairness alone is not sufficient. Any solution must also be politically acceptable. This is the difficult problem.
National governments hold political power by protecting their sovereign national interests against the claims of other nations. For this reason, both the United States and China have made largely self-serving proposals.
For the United States, setting a fair emission standard would require reducing its consumption and transferring those resources to, for example, the United Nations Green Climate Fund. Consumer goods -- such as gasoline -- would become much more expensive. People with low levels of income would require higher pay and better social services in order to survive. This, in turn, would require a significant redistribution of wealth and income.
Professor Renner teaches in the Honors College at the University of South Florida. This maerial is based on his podcast at: www.kerenner.com