If US Doesn't Price Carbon, Could Nations Boycott American Products?


Photo credit: JohnSeb via Flickr/CC BY

British economist and lead climate negotiator Lord Nicholas Stern (of the famous Stern report) issued something of a warning to the United States last week. He effectively argued that if the US fails to address climate change by enacting a pricing scheme to reign in carbon emissions, we could face an international trade boycott on American-made goods. The AFP reports (via Yahoo!):

A British climate change economist at the heart of international negotiations seeking a greenhouse gas deal said Friday that the US faces a trade boycott if it fails to rein in its carbon emissions. Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the British government's 2006 report on the economics of climate change, warned the US that many countries would shun its goods if they deemed them to be "dirty."
Stern told the Times that "The US will increasingly see the risks of being left behind, and 10 years from now they would have to start worrying about being shut out of markets because their production is dirty," adding that "If they persist in being slow about reducing emissions, US exports will start to look more carbon intensive."

It's an interesting concept to consider. It'd certainly be fair if we did start getting shut out of markets down the line -- with the EU reducing overall emissions through its carbon trading system, its exports are indeed en route to be "cleaner". I do hope that in 10 years, a premium is placed on exports that are less carbon intensive, and that there will be a system in place (an effective global carbon market, perhaps) to encourage dealing with countries that produce such goods. But I'm not holding my breath -- markets would have to reflect a pretty fierce ethical code to box out exports from the US.

In other words, I hope the international community punishes US obstinacy on addressing climate change by seeking cleaner exports -- it would force domestic industries to start taking carbon reduction measures seriously -- I'm just not convinced it will happen.

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