François Jeulin

" An international trade in pollution quotas... would allow rich nations to help poorer ones by buying their quotas - with benefits to both ".

During the last summit about global warming, which took place in Kyoto, it was proposed to set quotas that would be negotiable. This American proposal is aimed at allowing rich developed countries to buy the quotas of poor ones. According to the USA it " would allow rich nations to help poorer ones by buying their quotas - with benefits to both ". I will develop in a first part the fact that this proposition, if it were applied, would certainly have favorable effects over the economy of developed countries and poor countries. However, in a second part, I will try to show that it would lead only to short term benefits for poor countries and could be dangerous for the environment.

What can be firstly noticed is that the fact of buying the quotas of poorest nations would provide them substantial incomes, which would certainly help them to develop themselves. With that money they could develop their industry, modernize it, invest in education systems, reduce their debt, provided that the quotas would cost enough to do that. That is very likely : developed countries will be eager to buy those quotas, in order not to jeopardize their development. So it seems to be favorable for poor countries.

In the same time, it would allow developed countries to go on with a consequent growth without excessive costs. Actually the costs of the reduction of greenhouse gazes are very high. A part of the target emission rates could be achieved by the reduction of emission, the remaining part by buying poor countries’ quotas. Big countries would save money and preserve their growth.

However, although this measure will certainly be good for rich polluting countries, it is not sure that it will really help poor countries. First of all, it will increase their dependence on developed countries and strengthen their behavior of assisted countries. Moreover, even if that money helped them to develop their industry, they could not use it because they would have sold their right to pollute. So either they could not use their industry, so they would remain behind rich countries, or they would have to develop a few carbon emitting industry, so they would have to do the effort rich countries do not want to do themselves, and to bear the costs of adaptation.

Moreover it is not sure that it would be good for the environment. At the present time, poor countries who do not have any industry, do not pollute at all, whereas rich countries do. Saying that rich countries will maintain their emissions at the present level, and that poor countries will be set quotas, that will be in fact used by rich countries, means in fact that you globally authorize higher emissions of greenhouse gazes than now.

So that idea of negotiable quotas is a very tricky one. It is a sort of masquerade, a way of saying " we help poor countries and in the same time we care about environment ", which is totally false. It will not help poor countries the way they should be helped, and it will not prevent us from the global warming.