30 Mar 2009

UN’s Dreams of Looting

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The potential costs of dealing with an imaginary problem can be tremendous. Fox News reports on the UN’s about to be released climate change wish list. Santa Claus could never afford all this.

A United Nations document on “climate change” that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body. …

The paper makes no effort to calculate the magnitude of the costs and disruption involved, but despite the discreet presentation, makes clear that they will reverberate across the entire global economic system.

Among the tools that are considered are the cap-and-trade system for controlling carbon emissions that has been espoused by the Obama administration; “carbon taxes” on imported fuels and energy-intensive goods and industries, including airline transportation; and lower subsidies for those same goods, as well as new or higher subsidies for goods that are considered “environmentally sound.”

Other tools are referred to only vaguely, including “energy policy reform,” which the report indicates could affect “large-scale transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail and airports.” When it comes to the results of such reform, the note says only that it could have “positive consequences for alternative transportation providers and producers of alternative fuels.”

In the same bland manner, the note informs negotiators without going into details that cap-and-trade schemes “may induce some industrial relocation” to “less regulated host countries.” Cap-and-trade functions by creating decreasing numbers of pollution-emission permits to be traded by industrial users, and thus pay more for each unit of carbon-based pollution, a market-driven system that aims to drive manufacturers toward less polluting technologies.

The note adds only that industrial relocation “would involve negative consequences for the implementing country, which loses employment and investment.” But at the same time it “would involve indeterminate consequences for the countries that would host the relocated industries.”

There are also entirely new kinds of tariffs and trade protectionist barriers such as those termed in the note as “border carbon adjustment”— which, the note says, can impose “a levy on imported goods equal to that which would have been imposed had they been produced domestically” under more strict environmental regimes.

Another form of “adjustment” would require exporters to “buy [carbon] offsets at the border equal to that which the producer would have been forced to purchase had the good been produced domestically.”

The impact of both schemes, the note says, “would be functionally equivalent to an increased tariff: decreased market share for covered foreign producers.” (There is no definition in the report of who, exactly, is “foreign.”) The note adds that “If they were implemented fairly, such schemes would leave trade and investment patterns unchanged.” Nothing is said about the consequences if such fairness was not achieved.

UN Information Note

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