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Overcoming the Copenhagen Failure with Flexible Commitments

Joseph Stiglitz

Paper  3.75mb pdf

The fundamental issues presented by climate change are first, that the global environment is a global public good and second, the question of how to share the burden of providing a better climate. Everyone would like to “free ride” on the efforts of others, but there is disagreement over who is free riding. The Kyoto approach, based on dividing up emission rights, has an inherent problem in that such rights could easily reach a monetary value of over a trillion dollars a year. The approach suggested here avoids any attempt at a grand solution to the fair allocation of these rights. A lou’-carbon economy could be achieved through the imposition of a moderate carbon price, which would raise substantial revenue and allow a reduction in other taxes, thereby keeping the deadweight loss small. Countries should be given flexibility in how they meet their obligations—whether through a carbon tax, a system of cap and trade, or even possibly certain regulatory mechanisms. But a fully voluntary’ agreement likely cannot include countries that export a significant amount of fossil fuel. A green fund financed by allocating say 20% of carbon revenues collected in developed countries could be used to implement “differentiated responsibilities.”

About the Author

Joseph Stiglitz
Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)

Joseph E. Stiglitz is President of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, and Chairman of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. He is University Professor at Columbia, teaching in its Economics Department, its Business School, and its School of International and Public Affairs. He chaired the UN Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, created in the aftermath of the financial crisis by the President of the General Assembly. He is former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank and Chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2001.

Publication Information

Type Network Paper
Program Environmental Economics, Climate Change
Posted 07/12/17
Download 3.75mb pdf