15. The Global Environmental Accord: Beyond Kyoto
The Kyoto Protocol is
perhaps the world's greatest cooperative effort so far in addressing
environmental problems. However, it fails in many ways. As
discussed earlier on, it is a regulation-based approach that is
somewhat bureaucratic. Secondly, it attempts to address essentially
only one issue: greenhouse gases. It does nothing for the
conservation of non-renewable metallic resources or many other
environmental problems. Thirdly, the intent of the accord is not to
stop global warming but only to slow it down. As such, countries
are admitting failure from the start.
Why the need for an
international accord on global warming? The obvious part of the
answer is to force every country to participate and have
together a bigger impact on climate change. The not-so-obvious one
is that fighting global warming alone would decrease a country's
international competitiveness by making domestic production more
costly regardless of how it happens, cap-and-trade or a green
economic environment. Having a global accord would ensure that
countries are treated similarly and continue to compete on an equal
footing in both cases.
The Kyoto Protocol
Broadly speaking, the
first stage of the Kyoto Accord proposed to have countries reduce
their emissions of greenhouse gases for the 2008-2012 period.
Groups of countries were given different reduction targets
expressed as a percentage of their 1990 emissions levels. For
example, the U.S. and Canada had to reduce them to about 6% or 7%
lower than they were in 1990.
One of the issues
raised with Kyoto is that countries that had underperforming
economies in that year have much stiffer standards to meet,
their emissions having been lower than usual in 1990. Another
problem is national growth levels since then. Countries that
had stagnating economies during the 1990s are at a significant
advantage compared to others, their emissions having increased less
than they would normally have. As well, countries that have seen
significant increases in population and economic growth during that
period have much further to go to reach Kyoto targets.
Governments that fail
to reach the agreed upon targets in 2012 would have to purchase
emission credits. That would probably entail the setting up of an
international trading system of some kind.
The United Nations
Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December 2009
was the latest round of negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol—which
is due to expire in 2012. It aimed to produce a successor agreement
with much more ambitious greenhouse gas targets. One of its
key goals was to have countries agree on a 50% global emission
reduction by 2050 (80% for developed countries). The Copenhagen
Summit failed in both producing a successor accord and in getting
countries to agree on the stiffer targets.
At the last minute,
the U.S., China, India, Brazil, and South Africa agreed on a new
draft. The proposed agreement has much lower emission limits, is
non-binding, and was not adopted by the 193 countries participating
in the conference. As such, little has changed with respect to a
global accord on greenhouse gases except that the major players at
the table have agreed to continue talking.
As discussed earlier,
the above is not the best option to address global warming. The
whole system is complex, and its structure is essentially
regulatory, cumbersome, and bureaucratic for both governments and
industry. The GEE could work with the Kyoto Accord and replace
cap-and-trade. It would make it easier for industry to reduce
greenhouse gases and would remove international competitiveness
issues for carbon emissions.
stand-alone international agreement based on a green economic
environment strategy and common taxation rates would be more
effective in addressing global warming. In addition, it would boost
resource conservation, reduce toxic contaminants worldwide, and
eliminate international competitiveness issues for all of the above.
A GEE-based agreement would be a powerful and comprehensive
successor to the Kyoto Accord.
The Global Environmental Accord
following outlines what an international agreement based on the
Green Economic Environment strategy would look like. For the sake
of simplicity, it will be referred to as the Global Environmental
Accord (GEA) and would generally involve three different
groups of countries divided according to GDP levels: high, middle,
and low. Of course, this could be expanded as necessary. In some
cases, policies would be applicable across the board to all the
different groups. In others, different levels would be applied
according to purpose and ability.
Environmental Accord would comprise four components: fossil
fuels, non-renewable resources, environmental standards, and an
export tax to non-GEA members. Initially, the main intent would be
to establish a flexible framework that is acceptable to the largest
number of countries.
The Fossil Fuel Component
To keep things simple,
the following will focus on petroleum, but the GEA would also target
other fossil fuels.
Under the Global
Environmental Accord, oil would be the object of domestic and import
taxes that would raise its cost within individual countries to
a certain stable level. The example used earlier was US$ 150/barrel
(that might even be too low if the cost of petroleum naturally rises
above it). For a market price of $120, the levy would be $30. When
the former reaches $140, the tax would drop to $10 so that, over
time, oil sells at an average of about $150.
Initial price targets
could be chosen so as to approximately achieve the global emission
reductions already decided under the Kyoto Protocol, making
everything simpler and easier to agree on. The GEE fossil fuel
strategy would call for different price levels for each group of
countries in order to maintain the status quo of Kyoto in this
respect, i.e. stiffer targets for those better able to afford it.
Higher prices would
lead to conservation and promote the growth of the renewable energy
sector. For the U.S. and other net importers of fossil fuels, that
would mean increased wealth as money would stop hemorrhaging out of
their own economies.
After setting the
initial target for oil, there would essentially only be a minimal
amount of bureaucracy and no emission credit systems to establish.
Enforcement throughout the entire business sector would boil down to
regular tax collection from a handful of corporations. All a
government would have to do is keep track of the international price
of oil and establish the appropriate levy to be applied to both
local and imported sources at the wholesale level. The tax would be
revised periodically as the international cost of oil rises and
falls or could be self adjusting.
The business sector
would not face a regulation nightmare or need to spend time
understanding and implementing arbitrary rules about carbon
emissions and a new credit system. No rigid standards would be
applied throughout an entire sector. Businesses would face simple
input-price decisions for which they already have full expertise.
The approach would be dynamic and flexible. Price levels in the
accord could be renegotiated every few years in order to meet new
emission targets. The tax would not be charged on oil exports so
that international prices continue to be set through markets.
Decreasing world demand would moderate increases in the price of
A full GEE strategy
for energy would also tax other fossil fuels, such as coal and
natural gas, not only because they are depletable and produce
greenhouse gases but also to prevent a shift from one source of
emissions to another.
The Non-Renewable Resource Component
resource component of the Global Environmental Accord would be
crucial for not only beginning the global conservation of resources
but also supporting individual countries' national implementation of
their own green economic environment. As already expressed, without
multinational agreements a certain amount of conservation could be
achieved, but progress would likely reach a ceiling as a result of
decreased international competitiveness.
Environmental Accord would establish taxation standards for
countries with respect to non-renewable resources, 25%, 35% , 50%,
or whatever would be deemed appropriate. Initially, these could be
set lower in order to establish a broad-based common framework.
They could be raised later to desired levels as economies adjust to
the new green economic environment.
The rates would be
fixed. Countries would not try to meet a
target price as in the case of oil. The levy would be
charged on both domestic supplies and imports. This would lead to
conservation at home but would not hurt local economies as
importing countries would themselves collect it, and consumers
would get income and retail tax rebates as per the revenue
neutrality principle. Regular international prices would
remain in effect for importers, and the system would not penalize
resource-poor or developing countries.
The new scheme would,
for example, work like this. Richer countries would have to
enable full taxation. Poorer ones would have more flexibility,
being expected to tax to a minimum of 80% of the established
standard. For example, 80% of a 25% tax rate would be 20%. This
would promote exports for them and economic growth. The poorest
countries would have even greater flexibility. This would let them
choose what is best for their particular situation. Of course,
nothing would stop them from still electing to meet the full
standard as it would maximize conservation.
Higher prices for
non-renewable resources would reduce demand and global depletion
worldwide while offering poorer and the poorest countries options
ranging from implementing the full standard to exercising varying
degrees of flexibility in taxation in order to boost their
Because GEE taxes
would be collected as tariff by importers, the approach would be
revenue neutral for individual countries and the money raised would
be plowed back into local economies through reduced income and
retail taxation. Under the GEA, countries that are resource poor
would not be disadvantaged as world prices for raw materials would
be maintained, and those having plentiful supplies of minerals would
not enrich themselves at the expense of others as has been the case
with OPEC for several decades.
The GEA would give us
a mechanism to prevent a future of cartelization in which one
commodity after another becomes the object of speculation. The OPEC
way is not what we want as a future
for our children and people around the world.
The Environmental Standards Component
environmental standards component would serve to integrate and bring
into a common framework existing regulations on pollutants and
contaminants. It would mitigate the negative effects of the
stricter environmental regulations of some countries on their
international competitiveness and promote better national as well as
Regulatory limits and
bans would play an important role in this component. However, the
accord would still be primarily market-based, relying on taxation to
deter the use of a range of pollutants and contaminants. The
component would integrate existing environmental legislation on
highly toxic compounds as already agreed upon by the international
community. Other chemicals would face worldwide taxation based on
their toxicity, bio-accumulation, and potential for cumulative
damage to the environment.
Operating on a
formula similar to that of the non-renewable resource
component—different levels of flexibility applying to groups of
countries—the market-based approach would increase environmental
standards across the board. Wealthy regions would have to meet full
requirements while poorer countries could opt for softer targets as
under the other two components. The poorest would have to adhere to
less stringent standards although they could still choose to do
better and enjoy a cleaner environment.
The Export Tax to Non-GEA Member
Under the GEA, member
countries would not be charged export taxes when they import
non-renewable raw resources. As explained earlier, a government
would impose levies for local production as well as on imports, but
exports to international markets would not be taxed for other
members of the agreement.
The fourth component
of the Global Environmental Accord would give countries the option
of charging a levy on raw materials as they are exported to non-GEA
members. The tax would range from zero to the
full rate charged on imports. No levy would mean no incentive for
non-members to join the accord or conserve resources. At the other
extreme, the full tax would make non-renewable resources equal in
price for both GEA members and non-members, which would result in
overall international competitiveness between countries
remaining the same. In between, various tax levels would raise
prices and result in different degrees of conservation. As such,
whether they are participants in the global accord or not,
countries would be caught in the Global Environmental Accord's
wake, being forced to conserve.
The GEA would not be
just another environmental agreement. It would obviously be far
more comprehensive. The fourth component of the accord would
also give the international community the power to force the
conservation of non-renewable resources worldwide.
A View of the Future
In most respects, the
Global Environmental Accord would be more flexible and scalable than
a regulatory equivalent. It would provide an international
framework for the world to not only address global warming but also
begin the conservation of non-renewable resources and increase
environmental standards across the planet.
Environmental Accord would result in many countries decreasing
their dependency on oil. Their renewable energy sector would take
off and not look back. Resource conservation would soften the
impact of scarcity and delay potential crises. The use of
contaminants and pollutants would progressively decrease from the
continuous incentive provided by a market-based approach.
course is the current one: increasingly higher international oil
prices, other mineral resources following suit a bit further down
the road, environmental contamination getting worse and worse, and
global instability growing from poverty and the power shifts
associated with scarcity. That future is not that far away. It is
probably our children's and grandchildren's!
16. The Environmental Revolution
The GEE provides a
mechanism that could trigger an environmental revolution. It
could do so because it is revenue neutral and would generally not
cost the taxpayer a cent. The massive need for funding required by
other environmental strategies is primarily why we have so far
failed in making serious environmental progress. In a green
economic environment, our habits would have to change, but we would
generally enjoy a standard of living similar to the one we are used
revolution in the 21st century would require not only an
effective strategy—the GEE—but also a number of key ingredients:
fundamental legitimacy, popular support, and timing.
The fight for the
environment certainly has undeniable and fundamental
legitimacy: stopping global warming, ending the pillage of
non-renewable resources, and protecting the environment for
ourselves and posterity. The gouging of resources such as metals is
a one-way street. There is no second chance!
Politics is a numbers'
game. There would be two main demographics involved in an
environmental revolution: baby boomers and post-boomers. The former
are currently at the helm and will be for some time. They are the
ones who have the political power to bring about an environmental
revolution. Post-boomers are the new wave of consumers. They are
important in keeping companies in business today and will be the
ones patronizing them tomorrow.
Together, they have
the power and the clout to bring about an environmental
Just a decade ago,
people were buying SUVs and gas guzzlers as if there were no
tomorrow. Since the escalation of oil prices in 2008, people are
slowly waking up to the possibility that the fossil-fuel honeymoon
is over. We need to get real about increasing efficiency and
shifting to green energy.
Change has started to
happen, and global warming is now front and center on the
environmental agenda. Unfortunately,
contaminants seem to have taken a backseat, and the depletion
of most non-renewable resources is not even on the radar screen.
timing for a revolution is good for two reasons. Firstly, there is
a much greater awareness about environmental issues than there was
before, hence more political support. Secondly, there is an urgency
to act with respect to not only
global warming but also contaminants and the depletion of
We now have an
environmental strategy that could address all of these issues
without costing a cent to taxpayers.
Your helping to
publicize this book would achieve three things: raise awareness that
large-scale change for the environment is possible, let people know
that there is a strategy that could make it happen, and support the
work we do.
There are a number of
ways in which this can be accomplished. Below are several options,
but be sure to check the Waves of the Future website
(https://www.wavesofthefuture.net) for updates and other possible
strategies. If you have any suggestions, you will also be able to
make them through the website.
Getting your local and
educational libraries to purchase the book is one of the best ways
to publicize ideas. It does not cost anything and makes the book
available for free to many. Librarians will tell you how to go
about it. It is usually just a matter of filling out a form. It
can often be done online.
Word of Mouth
Obviously, the easiest
way to help with this book is to recommend it to anyone you know.
Getting bits and pieces from the media is not going to be enough.
People really need to be aware of all of the arguments so that they
will not easily be fooled by false claims made by detractors or
opponents of environmental change. Political support will be
much stronger and more effective if they do.
You can also
publicize the book on any available bulletin board. There are some
in shopping centers, grocery stores, condominium projects, community
centers, at work, etc. Most schools, colleges, and universities
have several of them.
You can also involve
groups that you belong to, environmental, political, or other. Make
sure that you give people the website address so that they can find
other ways to participate and the most up-to-date information.
One of today's most
effective ways to advertise and promote something is the
Internet. You can use every available opportunity that you have in
this respect: blogs, forums, your own website, etc. You can add
comments on your MySpace and Facebook pages or on any other network
of the kind.
You can also make a
YouTube video. You can use search engines to find environmental
blogs, forums, discussion groups, etc. and tell people about it.
Make sure that you always provide the website address for the book
so that people are able to find more information. Do some of these
things on a regular basis. Doing it one time only will not be
An obvious means of
promotion is to write a review at online bookstore sites such
as Amazon.com or where environmental issues are discussed. It does
not have to be long but could make a lot of difference. If you are
not inclined to writing, just rate it. This is very useful to
readers when it comes to purchasing something that they have not
already heard about.
Another approach is
linking to the Waves of the Future website. Doing this makes it
more visible to search engines. In some cases, the website address
(https://www.wavesofthefuture.net/) will suffice and a clickable link
will be created automatically. If it is not, the correct HTML
href="https://www.wavesofthefuture.net/">The 21st Century
Environmental Revolution: A Structural Strategy for Global
Warming, Resource Conservation, Toxic Contaminants, and the
When you submit your
comment, a clickable link should display with the title of the book.
If that fails, check the Waves of the Future website or email us.
Note that you can change the text of the link (in this case, the
title of the book) and should do so if you create many of them.
Using several environmental keywords is best.
The News Media
You can bring the book
to the attention of the news media. Write to book-review programs
on television, columnists, or environmental correspondents.
Give newspapers your opinions through their Letters to the Editor
section. Anyone can do that. Many publications now accept
submissions via the web or email.
Best Places to Buy the Book
Royalties to authors
can vary hugely depending on where you buy a book. In this case,
purchasing directly from the publisher, Waves of the Future
(https://www.wavesofthefuture.net), earns double the regular rate of
Governments and Corporations
corporations may be able to help. This is a major project that
would benefit society as a whole. Countries may want to participate
or support this one way or another.
environment has become excellent public relations (PR) for
corporations. Here is a chance for them to do something
significant. Suggest it to your employer.
would hugely profit from the GEE. Supporting this book is
probably one of the best investments they could ever make to
increase their markets as well as speed up the development of
the entire sector. Suggest it to them.
The E-Book Project
The most obvious way
to get involved for governments, corporations, and well-off
individuals is to participate in the E-book Project.
An electronic version of The 21st
Century Environmental Revolution could be made available cheaply
or even for free with donations from or the sponsorship of
corporations, organizations, and individuals. See the Waves of the
Future website for details.
Free digital copies
of this book could make a lot of difference in terms of
international promotion and political support for the Green Economic
Environment and the Global Environmental Accord. The E-book
Project would benefit everybody. Readers and fans would access
the book for free, which would help promote major changes for the
environment. Sponsors would get the satisfaction of contributing to
a worthy cause. Their donations would go towards meeting their
social responsibility goals.
billionaires could sponsor free e-books for everybody without
even blinking: from owners of major corporations to investors,
celebrities, and musicians. You got connections? Now is the time
to use them.
There are thousands
of professionals in North America alone, be they medical doctors,
professors, engineers, architects, lawyers, computer programmers,
etc. It would not take substantial donations from too many of them
to reach the goal of free e-books for everybody.
population of North America and Europe is over one billion. All
that is needed is for one out of every 1,000 people in those wealthy
regions of the world to donate to the E-book Project the
equivalent of a cup of coffee. Can you spare this much for the
environment and your
Add the book to online
reading lists that you know of. Write to people hosting their own
recommended lists and suggest that it be added to them. Some are
very popular and would provide a huge amount of publicity for the
are the key to all of this. If you assume that somebody
else will do it, little will ever happen.
Consumers have an
enormous amount of leverage. Everything we buy is a vote we cast.
Every time we purchase something, we either reward environmental
practices or punish them. We can buy green or purchase wasteful or
excessively packaged goods and reward companies that do not care
about and destroy the environment. As consumers become more
and more aware of their power, attitudes in the business world will
have to change. It is up to us. Some of this has already begun to
happen, but there is a long way to go.
patterns will define our future and that of our children and
grandchildren. Conscious consumerism can go a long way in
making tomorrow's world better. It is one of the most powerful
weapons we have today. The GEE would bring in the profound changes
that we need for the environment and magnify consumers' power by
making green products cheaper and promoting a natural switch to
their markets. With it, consumers will be able to choose the kind
of world that they want to live in.
Industry as Partner
Industry can be a
powerful ally in implementing the GEE. Many sectors would benefit
directly from the emerging green markets. Several companies and
even major producers of chemicals have already shifted a fair amount
of their R&D towards environmental substitutes and rake in a lot
of free publicity just for doing the right thing.
Future of Scarcity or Greener Society?
According to most
estimates, oil reserves have already peaked or are expected to do so
within the next few years. Other mineral resources will follow a
similar pattern of increased costs and scarcity as world economies
continue to grow. We will start being hit with shortages, prices
will rise, and we will face crises as we have with oil. That may be
only a few years or decades away.
The U.S. is
especially at risk for resource shortages because it is, and has
been for a long time, a large manufacturer and producer of goods.
To feed its massive industry, it imports minerals from many
countries around the world and could face very difficult times
ahead. Without the GEE and resource conservation, it will likely
have to contend with more crises in the future than it has in the
past, resulting in increasing poverty. This is true of many other
countries as well.
Both advanced and
developing parts of the world have every reason to implement and
support a GEE-based global environmental accord to ensure their
continued economic success and that of their children. The Global
Environmental Accord would prevent the cartelization of one
commodity after another. The alternative is the OPEC way and the
continuation on a destructive course that would bring only scarcity,
crises, and geopolitical turmoil.
The New Landscape
What would the world
be like under the GEE? What would the green economic environment
imply for us all? Countries would get greener and greener year
after year. There would be much less pollution in cities thanks to
fuel-cell and battery-powered electric vehicles. SPVs would make
most traffic jams a thing of the past, assuming countries opt for
non-proliferation policies. Streets would be safer and much less
noisy for everybody. Public transportation systems would
reduce traffic and be more heavily supported by governments.
retain their existing purchasing power, but prices would change to
reflect a greener economic incentive structure. Many items
would be more expensive, but there would also be more money to
spend. Goods would be kept longer and repaired more extensively.
Because of the
increase in the price of minerals, consumption would shift towards
services and green sectors, promoting growth in various industries.
Restaurants, bars, theaters, spas, sports and health centers,
personal care companies, etc. would see their business grow.
The music, video, and film industries would also do well.
Obviously, renewable energy technologies, green construction
and home repair, organic farming, etc. would simply thrive under the
(overt and hidden) would be replaced by greener substitutes.
Everything we buy would become less harmful to the environment. The
waste disposal industry would change dramatically, transforming
itself into a source of renewable and non-renewable materials for
various industries. Packaging would decrease and become greener and
often reusable. We would recycle much more intensively than we
economic environment would reward people for doing the right thing
instead of punishing them as is currently the case.
Energy and a Thriving Agricultural Sector
produce a lot more of their own energy instead of relying on
imports. It would come from diversified local sources. This would
significantly change balance sheets for oil importing countries,
keeping money at home.
become much more lucrative as the demand for its products would
increase significantly. As a result, new investment would flow into
the industry and serve to boost production, which would in turn
help keep prices down.
likely have to regulate how much good agricultural land can be
dedicated to the production of energy. Diversified domestic
energy policies would lead to the production of biofuels from
non-food crops grown on currently unusable land, refuse, and
industrial waste and byproducts. Some energy could come from food
crops to eliminate the excess production that often results in
depressed agricultural prices and the need for subsidies.
The GEE would lead to
a slowdown in the increase of the price of oil, which would have a
positive effect on the cost of food. In addition, the system
would favor green goods by not taxing them. This would include
The New Law of the Land
The Green Economic
Environment would transform the world as we know it. The incentives
to destroy the environment and waste natural resources would be gone
and replaced with ones that would do the exact opposite. Finding
ways to improve the environment and stretch out resources—as
opposed to destroying them—would become very profitable. The new
structure would reshape not only consumer markets but also the
industrial sector, which would work for the environment instead of
The companies that
produce chemicals would redirect their research and development
towards green alternatives to the scores of toxic compounds they
themselves invented. The clean up of the environment and of
industrial processes would begin and become a thriving sector.
The future would see
better living conditions in cities and a robust (and unsubsidized)
agricultural sector. The business environment would get greener and
cleaner. We would buy fewer material goods and consume more
services and environment-friendly products.
Copyright Waves of the Future, ©2010