On my last post about Canada’s stance on Kyoto and Climate Change, Jay made some pretty good points. So instead of just writing back in the comments section, thought I’d post them here.
There are two contentious issues here. The first one is freeloading. If “good” nations take measures to save the environment, then everybody benefits, good and bad alike. That means that the “bad” nations get a free ride. Canadian industry (the folks who will actually foot the bill) rightly thinks that this is unfair. China getting on board is a good start, but India has to get on too. There are a billion of them after all…
The second issue is the balance sheet, and the economic viability of implementing environmental measures. Although the global balance sheet is as you say; e.g. production has environmental consequences which cost everybody, this equation does not appear the same on the balance sheets of any one individual, corporation, or government department. Until that happens, nobody has a measurable incentive to change.
It would be an interesting exercise to come up with a scheme that solves both problems. i.e. a great B-school project.
Good excuses but still excuses.
Kyoto and the freeloading problem:
True, India should get on board with China and the other developing countries but there are a few things to consider:
1. what exactly is the “free ride?” That they can keep on polluting? That’ll work in the short term but will undoubtedly cause bigger problems (and costs) in the long run. Hence, we’re not necessarily “footing the bill” -the countries that don’t move are creating their own bill to pay later on (i.e. health costs, contaminated water supplies etc.) By stalling, Canada isn’t helping anyone – especially not helping our own economy.
2. Canada’s stance is essentially, everyone has to agree or nothing will happen. What about the companies that are going above and beyond what’s asked? (Good info on what businesses are doing here) Are they “footing the bill” for the others? Is it hurting their economies/profits? Au contraire, for the most part, they’re boosting innovation, finding alternative local fuels (improve energy sufficiency), and getting a lot leaner and flexible organizations.
Nevertheless, it is true that if you move alone with Kyoto, setting hard to reach goals with penalties, you’re bound to get hurt. I was sad to research the effects that it’s had on Europe. (Going green isn’t always a starry-eyed experience) But did we really think that trying to undo the wrongs of yesterday wouldn’t have an economic cost? Of course it will! But so too are there costs for not moving!Let’s not forget that this is also still the beginning of the change. Let’s see who has stronger economies (and less health problems, and happier people) 20 years from now. My guess is that their innovation and improved consumption patterns will have beneficial impacts, economically, environmentally and socially.
3. Part of reaching Kyoto involves Flexible Mechanisms and an interesting one in this case is the the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). If Canada got serious about Kyoto, we’d have more incentive to invest in India, China and other developing countries (anything is better than our complacent investments in the US! Canada usually has a one-track mindset when doing foreign investments- and I’m sure it’s hurting now with the slumping US economy). By using the CDMs we’d be helping those countries become more sustainable and help our own economy innovate and expand.
Balance Sheet Issue
Companies and other organizations: there’s a lot to say about being eco-efficient.
- Less waste = less money spent on trips to landfill
- less energy used= less spent on energy bill
- etc. etc. etc.
There’s also a lot to say about stakeholder dialogue. If you’re indirectly hurting/killing innocent people with your by-products, expect civil society to be at your company doors.
As for the other issues, the government has a lot of work to do. They’re paying for our health care and they’re in charge of the policy making. Again, they have to smarten up.