Environment

The relaunching of negotiations on environmental goods

Jaime de Melo, Mariana Vijil, 1 April 2014

The Bali agreement last December has given new hope that the WTO is not dead. The recent announcement that negotiations on the reductions of tariffs on environmental goods are to resume gives hope that the triple-win outcome of the Doha round – for trade, for development and for the environment – might materialise, at least partly. Or does it? This column argues that unless the field of negotiations is widened, the initiative will not help much.

Sustainable growth requires a long-term focus

Pascal Lamy, Ian Goldin, 28 March 2014

Excessive short-termism is always a problem for policy, but the Global Crisis has brought it sharply into focus. This column introduces a report that discusses how a shift to longer-term solutions is necessary and possible. A key message is that businesses as well as governments need to take a longer-term view. The report identifies ways to overcome the current impasse in key economic, climate, trade, security, and other negotiations.

The limited economic impact of the US shale gas boom

Mathilde Mathieu, Thomas Spencer, Oliver Sartor, 22 March 2014

The US unconventional energy boom has reversed the decline of domestic production, lowered oil and gas imports, reduced gas prices, and created political space for tougher regulations on coal-fired power plants. This column argues that it is not a panacea, however. Even if current estimates prove accurate, the long-run benefits to the US economy will be relatively small. Improving energy efficiency and promoting low-carbon technologies will be just as important as before – especially for the EU, given its more limited known reserves of unconventional oil and gas.

International environmental agreements don’t work

Derek Kellenberg, Arik Levinson, 1 March 2014

Economic theory predicts that international environmental agreements will fail due to free-rider problems, and previous empirical work suggests that such agreements do not in fact reduce emissions. This column presents evidence that the Basel Convention and Ban on trade in hazardous waste has also been ineffective. The authors find no evidence that Annex-7 countries that ratified the Ban slowed their exports to non-Annex-7 countries as the agreement requires.

Market mechanisms in retreat

Jeffrey Frankel, 27 February 2014

Market-based mechanisms such as cap-and-trade can tackle externality problems more efficiently than command-and-control regulations. However, politicians in the US and Europe have retreated from cap-and-trade in recent years. This column draws a parallel between Republicans’ abandonment of market-based environmental regulation and their recent disavowal of mandatory health insurance. The author argues that in practice, the alternative to market-based regulation is not an absence of regulation, but rather the return of inefficient mandates and subsidies.

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