Monday, May 31, 2010

A coalition of the willing?

Despairing of coordinated international action a la Copenhagen, Thomas Hale and Scott Moore call for those who are ready, to simply move - be they governments, sub-national states, corporations or even individuals. (See Chinadialogue .)It is an engaging idea because it appeals to the frustration of the willing not wanting to be held hostage to the unwilling. I am all for unilateral action, but only if it creates conditions to win over the unwilling. Otherwise, such actions have no chance of making a dent in the problem of greenhouse gas output. Meaningful voluntary action will only work if big players act unilaterally, and that is what makes the need for U.S. climate legislation so important. If the United States joins Europe in enacting serious legislation, they remove the risk to others who may fear that if they were to act unilaterally they would lose a competitive advantage. Moreover, action by the United States and Europe to impose import tariffs, on those who do not join them, could create a stick that goes along with the carrot. Whether such a stick could be wielded without starting a trade war remains an unresolved issue in this scenario.

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