Should the carbon content of these imports be removed from, say, the China account, and entered on the UK account? It is a mystery that footprints do not feature more prominently at the UNFCCC, and elsewhere – though attention is beginning to be paid to imported emissions, and associated questions of measurement, reporting, certification, regulation and taxation.
It proposed ‘two main strands. First, . . . a structural transformation of the regulation of national and international financial systems, and major changes to taxation systems. And, second, . . . a sustained programme to invest in and deploy energy conservation and renewable energies, coupled with effective demand management.’ Specific measures included investment in renewable energy, insulation of homes, higher fossil fuel prices, and a series of financial measures, including a clamp-down on tax havens, and de-merger of banking and financial groups.
- On social
provision more generally, both include an element of protection for
workers’ rights, including unionisation, and both lay out a wider agenda
on services, including (AOC) health care and housing, and (UKLP)
- On trade, an important difference is that AOC calls for ‘trade rules, procurement standards and border adjustments with strong labour and environmental protections’. It says nothing about imported emissions. UKLP, on the other hand, does not reference trade rules, but does say it is important to ‘measure and tackle consumption emissions, not just those produced on UK soil’. It also references migration, which AOC does not.
- Neither document has much to say about carbon pricing (on which see the report of the High Level Commission), and neither explores in any detail what ‘net’ emissions might mean, for example by referencing offset options under the Clean Development Mechanism or its successor, the Sustainable Development Mechanism. Neither has much to say about lifestyle issues, including diet (on which see, for example, the EAT-Lancet Report on Food, Planet, Health, or the recent IPCC Special Report on land). Neither discusses fiscal issues in any detail, including the overall cost and sources of financing. And neither has much to say about the rest of the world – in the sense of understanding what will be the impact on trade of climate actions elsewhere, or how we might work together on new technology.
One piece of recent research suggests that mitigation in rich countries could benefit developing countries in two ways: all would benefit from the reduced cost of extreme weather events, and oil importers could benefit significantly from lower oil prices. By 2050, GDPGross Domestic Product in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique could be between 2 and 6 per cent higher.
The key idea, though, is that ‘beyond the immediate risks that could stall the global economy are a series of macrostructural challenges that predate the Global Financial Crisis and have gone largely unattended since then. Four stand out because of their high degree of interdependence: the falling income share of labour; the erosion of public spending; the weakening of productive investment; and the unsustainable increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.’
But they must also spearhead a coordinated investment push, especially towards decarbonization of the economy, both by investing directly (through public sector entities) and by boosting private investment in more productive and sustainable economic activities.’
- Global value chains (GVCs) are a mixed blessing for the environment. Scale effects— which refer to the rapid growth of GVC economic activity—are bad for the environment, whereas composition effects—which refer to how tasks are distributed across the globe— have ambiguous effects. Technique effects—which refer to the environmental cost per unit of production—are positive for the environment.
- GVCs are associated with more shipping and more waste in the aggregate than standard trade. Both have environmental costs.
- One important concern has been that industries might migrate to jurisdictions where environmental regulations are lax, but that concern is not borne out by the data. Rather, by locating production where it is most efficient, GVCs can lower the net resource intensity of global agricultural production.
- The relational aspect of GVCs can attenuate environmental concerns. Knowledge flows between firms can enable the spread of more environmentally friendly production techniques throughout a GVC. The large scale of lead firms in GVCs can accelerate environmental innovation and push for higher standards.
- GVCs also facilitate the production of new environmentally friendly goods. Products such as solar panels, electric cars, and wind turbines are produced at lower costs in GVCs and help reduce the environmental costs of consumption.
Second, SDG compatibility. Climate change itself is an SDG (Goal 13) and links strongly to others, including SDG 7 on energy. There are wider links to other SDGs, including on income, inequality, democracy, and the like. The SDGs cannot be treated as a simple check-list, however, and it is unrealistic to expect that compatibilities can be found across the board. It seems reasonable to ask that cross-checks be made, that synergies and co-benefits should be maximised and that a kind of ‘do no harm’ principle should apply, that action on climate does not make achieving other SDGs more difficult.