Analysis of the US Case in Climate Change Negotiations
Margalioth, Yoram, Chicago Journal of International Law
I applaud Eric A. Postier and David Weisbach's courage in taking the academically unpopular stand of arguing that the US and other developed countries are not morally required to pay significant amounts of money (or money-equivalents such as emission permits) to developing countries in the context of climate change. I believe their book, may help narrow the gap between developed and developing countries' perceptions of justice on this matter. I differ with them in three respects. First, I think that we should acknowledge the fact that developed countries are unwilling to transfer significant amounts of money (not just in the climate change context) on distributive justice grounds, and adopt a moral theory that is more consistent with reality (but nevertheless requires significant transfers on humanitarian grounds). Second, I find merit in the argument that there is a moral flaw in the US's lack of significant action to reduce its relatively high per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the years after it became general knowledge that dangerous climate change was taking place and that it was anthropogenic. Third, I do not find the fact that developing countries will suffer the harsh consequences of climate change before the developed countries do to give the developed countries moral or bargaining advantage.
Table of Contents
I. Introduction ......................................................................490
II. Distributive Justice ............................................................495
III. Responsibility for Past Emissions ........................................497
A. Collective Responsibility .......................................................497
B. Culpability ..........................................................................498
C. Negligence ..........................................................................500
TV. Differential Vulnerability ......................................................501
V. Conclusion ...........................................................................504
Eric A. Posner and David Weisbach's book, Climate Change justice? addresses die greatest obstacle to achieving global cooperation in mitigating climate change: the conflict between developed and developing countries over what constitutes a just allocation of costs.2 Due to their inability to bridge this divide, representatives from 200 countries that participated in the recent round of UN climate-change negotiations in December 2011 in Durban bought some time (though at a huge price, because delay increases mitigation costs). They committed their governments to developing "a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,"3 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as early as possible, but no later than 2015. The parties also agreed that the new global mitigation scheme would take effect no later than 2020.4
The Durban outcome is not a significant achievement because the problems that prevented agreement in December 2011 will prevent any future agreement unless resolved. The agreement reached in Durban had, however, one important aspect: it was the first time that developing countries, most notably China and India, agreed to subject themselves to a global GHG mitigation scheme. This gives some hope that a future global treaty to be negotiated will be efficient, covering the major emitters. GHG mitigation requires global action. There is no sense in acting unilaterally. Emissions reduced by one country can be offset by an increase in emissions elsewhere. And there will be some transfer (known as leakage) of polluting industries to countries that are uncovered by the global mitigation scheme, as well as some increase in consumption, in those countries, of energy from fossil fuels due to the decreased demand for such energy in the covered countries.
This does not imply, however, that developing countries have relinquished their justice-based claims against developed countries. The Durban agreement does not specify anything about the content of the new protocol. Once negotiations begin in earnest, developing countries are likely to expect developed countries to bear most of the economic burden of the global mitigation scheme. This makes Climate Change Justice very timely and important.
To clarify the analysis, let us assume that all countries agree to sign and enforce a global climate change mitigation treaty imposing a tax on GHG emissions at a global rate that would fix GHG concentration in the atmosphere at the optimal level.5 By making this assumption, we assume away all efficiency issues and focus on the question of justice - the subject of the book.
The question is, then, how to allocate the cost of mitigation across countries.6 Many scholars and countries' representatives in climate change negotiations argue that the US should bear a significant share of the cost, on the order of trillions of dollars.7 Posner and Weisbach, however, argue against such cost allocation, making the following claims:
(1) The US is not morally required, on distributive justice grounds or because of alleged responsibility for the stock of GHG in the atmosphere due to past emissions, to assume the costs of (or reimburse) other countries that participate in a global climate change mitigation scheme.8
(2) Countries differ in their vulnerability to climate change.9 In the absence of distributive or corrective justice claims, the cost of mitigation should be allocated according to the benefits from mitigation. The US is relatively less vulnerable to climate change than other countries, including many developing countries, and should therefore bear a relatively small share of the cost.
Therefore, when countries demand that the US bear a significant share of mitigation costs as, for example, was expected of the US under the Kyoto Protocol, they ask the US to become a net loser. International cooperation is voluntary. Countries will not sign treaties that make them net losers,10 unless they are ethically required to do so and choose to act morally. As claimed in (1) above, the US is not morally required to do so.
(3) Lasdy, Posner and Weisbach raise the issue of political feasibility. Even if the US were morally required to transfer trillions of dollars to developing countries through a climate change treaty, the US is highly unlikely to undertake such a commitment.11 In fact, the main reason Posner and Weisbach give for writing their book is their concern that the justice-related arguments would "doom the prospects for an international agreement - and thus . . . create exceedingly serious risks to human welfare, above all in poor nations."12
I applaud Posner and Weisbach for their courage in taking this academically unpopular stand. By doing so, they improve the chances of reaching a global agreement, because one of the major impediments to the success of the international negotiations on climate change is developing countries' suspicion that climate change discussions are a "tool that the North is using to slow the economic and political rise of the South."13 Explaining why the US believes it is acting morally is extremely important in creating enough trust to reach an agreement, especially when one considers the high level of suspicions held by developing nations. I view the book as an effort to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries by explaining why the US views its position as morally sound.
While I support Posner and Weisbach's project, I differ with them in three respects. First, while I agree with Posner and Weisbach that the US need not engage in distributive justice via a climate change treaty, I think there is a better way to support this view, a way that is more likely to be found credible by developing countries. Posner and Weisbach apply a welfarist analysis to the global context, arguing that redistribution should take the form of foreign aid and not of a redistributive climate change treaty. This is analytically accurate, but is likely to frustrate developing countries and decrease the chance of cooperation, because foreign aid is insignificant.14 And there is no reason to think that rich countries will significandy increase the amounts they transfer to poor countries in the form of foreign aid - especially now and in the foreseeable future, due to the great uncertainty that many of these countries are experiencing regarding their future since the 2008-09 economic crisis. Thus, when Posner and Weisbach say that they believe that borders are meaningless for redistribution purposes, but refuse to engage in redistribution in the context of a global treaty that is currently on the table, developing countries may find the argument dishonest.
Therefore, in the setting of real-world negotiations, it is imperative to get to the bottom of the global distributive justice question and to try to find a theory that we can honestly live by. Rawls's global distributive justice theory15 seems closer to reality, and I think that developing countries would find the US position more candid and easier to agree with if the US based the morality of its position on such a theory. I suspect that even people in poor countries, the intended beneficiaries of global transfers, would not agree to pay taxes to fund transfers to poorer countries, based on an alleged global distributive justice theory. This does not mean that rich countries should not transfer any resources to poor countries. Of course they should. But such transfers are required on a humanitarian basis, to help developing countries cope with various disasters, including the need to adapt to die inevitable consequences of climate change, not on distributive justice grounds.
Second, unlike Posner and Weisbach, I find merit in the argument that there is a moral flaw in the US's lack of significant action to reduce its relatively high per capita GHG emissions in the years after it became general knowledge that dangerous climate change was taking place and that it was anthropogenic. For example, the US imposes relatively low taxes on fossil fuel-based energy, while its emissions per capita are about twice the per capita emissions in Western Europe, though the standard of living is similar.16
Finally, Posner and Weisbach assign much weight to their argument that because countries differ in their vulnerability to climate change, compensation should be paid by countries that benefit more from climate change mitigation to countries that benefit less, to make the global agreement equally attractive to everyone. Indeed, once we eliminate considerations of distributive justice and responsibility for past emissions, all we are left with is straightforward bargaining, with each country morally free to make its own cost-benefit analysis.
Posner and Weisbach think that in theory, this would require other countries to compensate the US for participating in a global mitigation scheme because the US is relatively less vulnerable. This may be interpreted as a moral argument or as an argument about power in negotiations.17 I am not sure, however, that the US is indeed less vulnerable to climate change than developing countries. The US's vulnerability depends on what is expected to happen if the US refuses to participate in the global scheme. It is plausible to assume that no global coalition (nor, probably, leadership) would form in the absence of US participation, as China, India, and many other high-emitting countries are unlikely to limit their emissions unless the US does so. Under such a "business as usual" scenario, the US is expected to suffer losses due to climate change that are larger in monetary terms than those suffered by poorer countries.18 This will happen later; that is, developing countries will be the first to suffer from climate change, but ultimately we must acknowledge that the greater losses that the US will suffer have a weakening effect on its current negotiating power.
In Section II, I discuss global distributive justice. Section III addresses the question of responsibility for past emissions. In Section IV, I examine the meaning of differences in vulnerability to climate change in terms of bargaining power and from a moral perspective. Finally, I conclude.
II. DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
When analyzing global distributive justice, Posner and Weisbach argue that redistribution from rich to poor should be based on the relative overall wellbeing of the poor and not on only one specific factor.19 Climate change is one of many factors that affect a nation's wealth. Some poor countries that will incur significant adaptation costs will nevertheless be wealthier than other poor countries with lower climate change-related costs. The latter should be addressed first because what we care about is redistribution from rich to poor, whereas vulnerability to climate change is merely an (inaccurate) proxy for poverty.20
In addition, assuming economic growth, the current residents of some poor nations may be poorer than the future residents of those nations will be, even when the future impact of climate change on these countries is taken into account. Moreover, cash transfers are generally preferable, because they allow recipients to use the money as they see fit. The poor country may prefer, for example, to spend the money on education, or on AIDS prevention, or on health care in general, for the benefit of its residents.
I agree with the above welfarist analysis. There is no reason to base climate change policy on redistributive motivation, because climate change mitigation and adaptation costs do not add any relevant information for redistribution purposes that was not already captured in the countries' wealth. I therefore agree that redistribution through money transfers is superior to redistribution through a climate change treaty.
There is, however, one problem with this theory: its application. Wealthy countries refuse to provide foreign aid in significant amounts.21 Negotiations over a climate treaty may provide an opportunity to put pressure on rich countries to transfer funds to poor countries. Posner and Weisbach reject this argument, raising the concern that it may doom the climate change negotiations.22 This is not a moral argument, but a practical and empirical one.
I therefore suggest that we try to understand why we think (actually, know) that the US and other rich countries will refuse to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries, even though, within each country, significant transfers from rich to poor individuals take place. The reason rich countries are unlikely to agree to significant transfers to poor countries through climate change treaties, or otherwise, is their disbelief in global distributive justice as a guiding norm.
I think that Rawls's global distributive justice theory better describes reality.23 According to Rawls, distributive justice applies only to fellow members of a society under one sovereign government.24 People who are subject to the same government and are forced to obey its laws are loyal to a shared political order and support the same institutions. Their loyalty is based on trust that the concern for all compatriots' well-being is the rationale for all political choices. People living in different countries are not subject to a joint coercive authority and therefore are not morally entitled to its provisions. Globalization does not change this, as it merely creates economic interdependence across countries, which is not enough to make people in different countries become part of a unified society.25
Most people do not rely on welfarism in shaping their moral views of global distributive justice. Adopting moral theories by whose standards nearly everyone is immoral seems to me to be unwarranted. As mentioned in the introduction, I think that even the people in poor countries, the intended beneficiaries of global transfers, would not agree to pay taxes to fund transfers to poorer countries based on an alleged global distributive justice theory. In my view, wealthy countries should help poor countries to finance the huge costs of adaptation, as preventive action is often more cost-effective than emergency action, and poor countries lack the necessary resources. But this is justified on a humanitarian basis, not on distributive justice grounds.
Developing countries often try to avoid the difficult question of distributive justice by stressing the intuitive appeal of an equal per capita allocation of global emission permits, viewing it as a guiding norm.26 They argue that in an international agreement, emission rights should be allocated by reference to population. This would generally redistribute wealth from developed to developing countries, as developing countries (who tend to be low per capita emitters) would be able to sell their excessive permits to developed countries (who tend to be high per capita emitters).
I agree with Posner and Weisbach that equal per capita GHGs should not be regarded as a guiding norm. The equal per capita argument is baseless. It is predicated on the assumption that the "atmosphere" belongs to all human beings equally. But assuming ownership is simply begging the question. We could have reached an opposite conclusion by making a different assumption; for example, that the atmosphere belongs to no one, hence people are free to emit on a first-come, first-served basis. Saying this would provide moral justification for the current unequal use. Therefore, we need a general theory, such as a distributive justice theory, to decide what would be a fair allocation.
III. RESPONSIBILITY FOR PAST EMISSIONS
The main arguments Posner and Weisbach raise against assigning responsibility for past emissions are the following: (1) the immorality of assigning collective responsibility; (2) the need for fault and therefore an ability to know that the activity is harmful; and (3) the need for negligence.27
A. Collective Responsibility
When developing countries request compensation from developed countries due to the latter's excessive emissions that contributed disproportionately to the stock of GHG in the atmosphere, they rely on tort law. The tort claim is directed at a country and thereby to all individuals who currently reside in it; but those individuals may differ sharply in their GHG emissions. Some individuals may have consumed relatively little electricity and never owned a vehicle, while others emitted a lot. Posner and Weisbach argue that such a tort claim, that is, a claim against an aggregated defendant that includes individuals who did nothing wrong, is immoral.28
I do not find this argument convincing. Under the tort claim, if successful, the state will be required to pay compensation. This will be paid from revenues raised by its tax system. It is the government's responsibility toward its residents to tax its citizens according to each individual's emissions. In the likely case that the government did not do so, it is the government's fault that it did not impose taxes on GHG emissions. Citizens can raise claims against their own government for not making people pay for the real cost of their activities, but they cannot raise claims against other countries that request compensation based on the harm that was caused to them.
The US position on climate change has been criticized for years by scholars and international forums.29 The two principal criticisms are the US's rejection of the Kyoto framework and its lack of action to reduce GHG emissions domestically.
The first criticism is less relevant today. At the time, the US's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol30 unless developing countries committed to limit their GHG emissions seemed extreme. Today, we understand that without universal coverage, a global mitigation scheme would be prohibitively costly, if not completely futile.31 Moreover, when viewed in retrospect, the burden the protocol imposed on the US was disproportionately heavy. Some nations, such as Russia, Germany, and the UK, met their commitments thanks to historical events unrelated to the need to reduce GHG emissions,32 and others, most notably Canada, failed to meet their commitments. In 2012, Canada, Japan, and Russia adopted the US position and refused to be part of the protocol unless developing countries committed to limiting their emissions as well.
The second criticism of the US remains valid. It may even be stronger in light of the Senate's negative position on the cap-and-trade bill that was passed by the House in 2009. The US continues to be among the world's top emitters on a per capita basis and no federal carbon tax or cap-and-trade system is likely to be adopted in the foreseeable future.
This brings up the question of fault. Adjusted for population size, the US contributes more to climate change than most other countries, and may be morally required to pay compensation for its excessive emissions in the past. Once we require fault, there is a very strong fairness-based case to limiting tort claims to emissions that took place only in recent years. The reason is simple. Until relatively recently, developed countries were not (and could not have been) aware of the effects of GHG emissions, and so should not be held accountable for past emissions. Setting the cut-off date is an empirical question.
It could be 1992, because in that year, nearly all countries, including the US, signed an international treaty - the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)33 - "[for] stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." Alternately, it could be as recently as 2010, when all major economies agreed on the goal of limiting warming to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels.34
Compensation should be reduced to account for the benefits that low per capita emitting countries derived through positive spillovers from economic activity (such as innovation) that took place in polluting countries, if such activity was made possible thanks to high per capita emissions.35
To sum up, as has been mentioned above, GHG mitigation requires global action. There is no sense in acting unilaterally. Therefore, the US and other high per capita emitters are responsible for not doing enough to decrease their emissions and should pay some compensation for excessive emissions that took place after a certain cut-off date. But in calculating the compensation, positive spillovers should be accounted for, as well as the contributory fault of many other countries, including the major developing countries, to the failure to reach a global mitigation scheme because such a scheme would have reduced the emissions in developed countries.
Posner and Weisbach argue that the weakest standard of culpability is negligence;36 therefore, if the US was not negligent in emitting GHGs, no suit can be brought against it. They argue that on the individual level, a GHG emitting activity cannot be regarded as negligent if the benefit the individual derived from the activity was greater than what she would have been required to pay under a carbon tax regime, had such a system been in place. Assuming that a carbon tax would have added ten cents to the price of a gallon of gas, Posner and Weisbach argue that "a person is negligent when she drives rather than walks if the benefit she obtains from driving is less than ten cents per gallon consumed. The argument could be extended to the choice of driving rather than using convenient forms of public transportation and to other activities as well."37
This, essentially, is another version of the collective responsibility argument. This time the "collective" is comprised of the separate acts performed by the same individual. I think the argument is wrong, because it is based on the assumption that the carbon tax, which is a Pigouvian tax, namely a tax that is designed to change individuals' behavior, did not work. If indeed adding ten cents to the price of a gallon of gas has no effect at all, the tax is too low. Plausibly assuming that a tax set at the optimal rate would change many individuals' behavior, some US individuals would change their behavior, hence the tax represents the group's negligence, measured collectively. It can therefore be arbitrarily attributed to the individuals who form the group.
Posner and Weisbach also argue:
If many or most people fail to pay a carbon tax or (as we argue) fail to act as if they pay it by cutting back on less important activities that produce greenhouse gases, then the contribution of Americans who do this is quite small. And if this is the case, it cannot be considered negligent for Americans to fail to reduce their greenhouse gas emitting activities. Put differendy, it is not negligent to fail to contribute to a public good if not enough others are doing similarly, so that the public good would not be created even if one did contribute.38
I do not find this argument convincing. First, the underlying assumption that climate change is an all-or-nothing phenomenon is wrong. If the public good is not "created," or, if dangerous climate change is taking place, any additional emissions increase the harm. This is not equivalent to the case (analyzed by philosophers, as will be described below) where many people kill a person together, each contributing a little to the killing, and some of them, unknowingly, do so after the person is already dead. The earth is not dead yet, so adding excessive emissions is morally wrong.
Even assuming that the emissions were so severe that nothing could be done to save the planet, this behavior would have been negligent according to the following classic statement by Derek Parfit: "Even if an act harms no one, this act may be wrong because it is one of a set of acts that together harm other people."39 In the case of a joindy harmful act, the order in which the agents contribute to that harm is irrelevant in the moral assessment of the agents' behavior. The American individuals who emit beyond their baseline per capita emissions contribute to the harm, together with all other individuals in the world who exceed their per capita level. Each one of them is morally liable.
Lasdy, Posner and Weisbach discuss the corrective justice case against actions taken by the government.40 They make the same points about negligence and culpability mentioned above in the context of individuals, and I think the same answers apply to the government context. The US government is morally at fault, together with many other governments, for taking part in the harmful activity. It is also negligent, even though US emissions per dollar of GDP are relatively low.41 To see that the US did not fully internalize the costs (in terms of climate change) associated with its policy, we can make the plausible assumption that the imposition of an optimal carbon tax would have reduced American GHG emissions.
To sum up, both individuals and the US government, and all other high per capita GHG emitters, are morally responsible for not taking significant action to reduce their high per capita emissions in recent years, say, since 1992. They should therefore compensate the rest of the world by, for example, transferring more than their otherwise fair share of foreign aid to poor countries that are expected to suffer grave consequences due to the already inevitable level of climate change.
IV. DIFFERENTIAL VULNERABILITY
Countries differ in their vulnerability to climate change. There is global consensus about the need to hold "the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above preindustrial levels."42 The 2°C target is a global average. For some countries, such as the Maldives, it is too high, because they may be flooded before we reach that point, but for others, possibly the US, it may be too low, depending on the costs of mitigation. In general, developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change than developed countries.43
A developed country like the US may argue that, in the absence of a distributive justice motivation (which we ruled out), equity demands that individuals contribute to the financing of a public good in relation to the benefit they are expected to derive from it. The same is true for countries with respect to the global pubic good of GHG mitigation. Those who benefit more than others are required to contribute more, and vice versa.44 In other words, rich countries can argue that they deserve a greater allocation of emission rights than poor countries, or that they should participate in a carbon tax scheme but receive transfer payments, because they will not benefit as much as poor countries from climate change mitigation.45
This, however, is not the whole picture. The argument would have been morally sound had the US not contributed to the creation of the problem by emitting GHGs. But it did, and still does. This makes it an argument about power in negotiations, not a moral argument. By making this argument, the US exploits its relative power or, in other words, the greater climate change vulnerability of the other parties to the negotiations.
I will clarify the two facets of the argument through the following example, which I have used elsewhere. Let us imagine two prisoners sitting in their cell, eating and talking. Next to them there is a waste basket containing some food leftovers that smell terrible. Prisoner A cannot stand the smell. He suffers terribly. Prisoner B, on the other hand, has lost most of his ability to smell and therefore does not suffer much. The basket is heavy and moving it out of the cell would require a huge effort if carried by one person, and considerable, but nevertheless less effort, if carried by two. Prisoner A asks Prisoner ? to help him carry the basket, and prisoner ? refuses, saying he hardly smells anything. At this point, Prisoner B's refusal can be considered moral (barring distributive justice). He has little to gain and a lot to lose because the basket is heavy. However, if we assume that Prisoner ? is responsible for much of the garbage, then his refusal to help carry the basket becomes immoral, and if he asks Prisoner A to pay him to help carry the basket, ? would be taking advantage of his comparative power in a negotiation.
In the above example, Prisoner ? has a bargaining advantage. He does not suffer from the foul smell. Posner and Weisbach view the greater vulnerability of developing countries to climate change as weakening their bargaining power in international negotiations on the allocation of GHG mitigation costs. They write, "[i]f climate change is to be addressed at a cost acceptable to people living in developed countries and the major developing countries, large-scale redistribution to the poor is not going to be part of a climate treaty."46 This is because of their International Paretianism principle, which states that no agreement will be reached unless all states believe themselves "better off by their lights as a result of the climate treaty."47 The principle is obviously true, but does not mean that the US (and all other rich countries) are not better off (by their own lights) paying vast amounts to developing countries, if the alternative is no international cooperation to mitigate climate change.
To reach the level of atmospheric GHG concentration that is now believed to be reasonably safe for developed countries (namely, is likely to result in only a modest increase in average global temperature) would require near universal participation. An increase in temperature above moderate levels, which is the likely outcome of a failure to reach international cooperation, will result in grave consequences to developed countries. Their losses, measured in monetary terms, will be much greater than those of developing countries.48
If no global climate change mitigation scheme is agreed upon and enforced, GHG emissions would continue unabated, and the present value of losses that the developed countries are expected to suffer would be greater than the transfer payments that developing countries currently require them to pay. In other words, the US would be better off subsidizing the mitigation cost of developing countries, because the alternative is no mitigation at all, and this would result in even greater losses (in present value terms) to the US than the costs (in present value terms) of mitigation.
The US and other developed countries have a timing advantage. The developing countries will start suffering earlier. This alone could give the developed countries a significant bargaining advantage. However, there is another fact to consider: any delay in implementing the global mitigation scheme significantly raises the costs of mitigation. Thus, the US may not benefit from its ability to wait, because waiting also increases the costs of mitigation.
Ultimately, it is unclear whether Posner and Weisbach are correct in assuming that the greater vulnerability of developing countries to climate change provides the US and other developed countries with a bargaining advantage. As for the question of morality, it seems to depend on whether we view the US as liable for contributing to the creation of the problem. If we do, then the US cannot argue that it is not morally required to pay for mitigation that prevents temperature increase at levels that are beneficial to developing countries but are excessive when examined, using a cost-benefit analysis, from the US perspective alone.
Nearly all scholars view the US position in international negotiations on climate change as morally wrong.50 In contrast, Posner and Weisbach defend the morality of the US position and that of most other developed countries. By doing so, they provide developing countries with an opportunity to see that the US position on climate change is not necessarily based on fear of competition or on disregard for the welfare of people in the developing world.
This is very important because we know from experiments, such as the Ultimatum Game, that people are willing to incur significant costs to punish people who they think treated them unfairly.51 Developing countries might be willing to suffer the harsh consequences of climate change that could have been avoided if a global climate change mitigation scheme had been employed, merely to punish the developed countries for treating them unfairly, even if the global mitigation scheme would have left them better off in an objective (cost-benefit analysis) sense.
While developing countries are unlikely to be convinced by the arguments made in this book, the chances of reaching agreement are nonetheless improved by the discussion the book offers. The reason is simple. It is easier to reach cooperation when there is an honest disagreement on how to allocate costs than it is when one party thinks that the other is treating him unfairly simply because it believes it can.
In this paper, I have made three arguments regarding how these costs should indeed be allocated. First, I agree with Posner and Weisbach that the claim raised by developing countries that rich countries should take upon themselves the financing of climate change mitigation merely because they are rich should be rejected. But while I agree with their welfarist analysis, I think that it would be more realistic, and more credible to developing countries, to analyze global distributive justice according to Rawls's theory.
Second, the US and a few other high per capita GHG emitting countries may be liable under tort law, at least in a moral sense, for their excessive contribution to the stock of GHG in the atmosphere in recent years. The cutoff date may be 1992, but could be later. The amount of compensation should be adjusted for positive spillovers and should take into account the contributory fault of other countries, including the major developing countries, to the failure to reach a global mitigation system.
Finally, I question the argument that because developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change developed countries have an advantage in bargaining power. The alternative of no mitigation at all results in losses to the US that are higher in present value monetary terms than the losses expected to be incurred by developing countries. From a moral perspective, the US may not be morally liable to pay for levels of mitigation beyond what is required under its own cost-benefit analysis. But, if we see the US as a significant contributor, in recent years, to the creation of the problem, it may be morally liable to pay for mitigation levels beyond what is optimal from the US perspective alone.
1 Eric A. Posner and David Weisbach, Climate Change Justice (Princeton 2010).
2 See, for example, Andrew Dessler and Edward A. Parson, The Science and Politics of Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate 188 (Cambridge 2010); Andrew Revkin, Global Warming Basics, NY Times (Nov 23, 2009), online at htç://dotearm.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/ll/23/global-warrriingbasics/ (visited Oct 11, 2012) ("At the heart of the international debate is a momentous tussle between rich and poor countries over who steps up first and who pays most for changed energy menus."); Gracida Chichilnisky and Kristen A. Sheeran, Saving Kyoto: An Inader's Guide to How It Works, Why It Matten and What It Means for the Future 124 (New Holland 2009) ("[T]he conflict between the rich and the poor nations is the cause of Kyoto's uncertain future."). The costs I am referring to in this Article are the costs of mitigation, such as investments in new technologies and infrastructure that are necessary for a transition to a low-GHG economy. The costs of transition, in the power generation sector only, of switching from reliance on current sources of energy to higher shares of renewable energy sources, are around 1 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) per year. See Ottmar Edenhofer, et al, IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation: Summary for Policymakers 38 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2011), online at https://docs.google.eom/file/d/0BlgFp6Ioo3akeGxneEJCejQxdzg/edit (visited Oct 15, 2012). Accounting for the many other necessary changes would bring the total cost to about 2 percent of global GDP per year over the next fifty years. See Nicholas Stern, A Blueprint For a Safer Planet 48 (Bodley Head 2009) .
3 United Nations, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Seventeenth Session, UN Doc FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.l (2012).
5 The same goal could be achieved using a global cap-and-trade scheme.
6 Alternately, we could frame the question as: What would be the "optimal" level of GHG concentration? Should it be die optimal level for die US, the global average, or the optimal level for poor countries that also tend to be relatively highly vulnerable to climate change? By assuming, in the text, that it is the global optimal level and focusing only on the allocation of costs, we capture everydiing that matters and clarify die discussion.
7 See Eric A. Posner and Cass R. Sunstein, Climate Change Justice, 96 Georgetown L J 1565, 1608 (2008).
8 See Section II for a discussion of global distributive justice and Section III for a discussion of responsibility for past emissions.
9 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change justice at 21-26 (cited in note 1).
10 And if they sign treaties that are not in their interest, they are unlikely to abide by them. See Thomas Schelling, What Makes Greenhouse Sense?, 81 Foreign Aff 1, 5 (2002) ("[Neither the United States nor the other major developed countries will likely accept serious sanctions for missing emissions targets.").
11 In addition to the difficulty in raising such huge sums, the US's fear of losing its competitive advantage to China (and later to India, a primary recipient of such transfers) would make transfers to these countries even less politically feasible.
12 Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 192 (cited in note 1).
13 Ramgopal Agarwala, Towards a Global Compact for Managing Climate Change, in Joseph Aldy and Robert Stavins, eds, Post-Kyoto International Climate Polig: A Summary for Policymakers 75 (Cambridge 2009) (referring to the need for the South to conduct its own research on climate change).
14 See, for example, Wojciech Kopczuk, Joel Slemrod, and Shlomo Yitzhaki, The Limitations of Decentralized World Redistribution: An Optimal Taxation Approach, 49 Eur Econ Rev 1051, 1075 (2005) ("[T]he actual flow of foreign aid is minuscule compared to what the optimal world income tax implies, suggesting that voluntary world redistribution produces an outcome that is consistent with the residents of rich countries not being border-neutral, or anything close to it, or with assuming that most of the aid will be wasted."); Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty 310 (Penguin 2005) ("Contrary to popular perception, the amount of aid per African per year is really very small, just $30 per sub-Saharan African in 2002, from the entire world. ... In 2002, the US gave $3 per sub-Saharan African. Taking out the parts for US consultants, food and other emergency aid, administrative costs, and debt relief, the aid per African came to the grand total of six cents.").
15 See John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Harvard 1999) (rejecting the idea of an indefinite international redistribudon duty and the global application of his difference principle).
16 See, for example, the World Bank Data, online at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN. ATM.C02E.PC (visited Oct 13, 2012); The Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), What's New?, online at http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu (visited Oct 13, 2012); Jos GJ. Oliver, Greet Janssens-Maenhout, and Jeroen A.H.W. Peters, Trends in Global CO2 Emissions (European Commission Joint Research Centre 2012), online at http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/CO2REPORT2012.pdf (visited Oct 10, 2012). Some of the difference can be explained by the greater distances that Americans need to drive on a daily basis compared to Europeans. But I doubt if this alone can explain the entire difference in emissions per capita.
17 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 96-97 (cited in note 1).
18 Poor countries bear a larger burden as a fraction of their GDP than rich countries, but the relevant question to be considered is that of comparing the costs of GHG abatement with the benefits expected to derive from averting the climate change problem. The costs and benefits are measured in dollars, not in relative shares of GDP. Rich countries have more to lose, because they have more income flows and assets to protect. Take, for example, Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in costs due to property damage of more than $100 billion. Similar disasters taking place in areas of the world where property is less valuable result in lower damage measured in monetary terms. To clarify this point, assume that climate change results in the complete destruction of Earth. Under such a scenario, rich countries will suffer greater losses of income than poor countries, simply because they had more to lose. Hence, logically, there must be a point, that is, a level of GHG concentration in the atmosphere, lower than the one that leads to the complete destruction of earth, where the benefits to the rich countries from climate change abatement are greater than the benefits to poor countries.
19 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 97 (cited in note 1).
21 See note 14.
22 See Posner and Weisbach, Carnate Change justice at 192 (cited in note 1).
23 See Rawls, The Law of Peoples (cited in note 15).
25 Richard W. Miller, Clobati^ingfustice: The Ethics of Poverty and Power Mi (Oxford 2010).
26 See, for example, the long list of references in Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 120 (cited in note 1).
27 See id at 102-16.
28 See id at 101.
29 See, for example, Steven Kull, et al, America's Globo/ Image in the Obama Era 4 (The Program on International Policy Attitudes 2009), online at http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf /jul09/WPO_USObama.Jul09_packet.pdf (visited Oct 14, 2012).
30 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1997), 37 ILM 22 (1998).
31 See Joshua Elliott, et al, Unilateral Carbon Taxes, Border Adjustments and Carbon Leakage (The Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy Working Paper, Feb 2012), online at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1995888#%23 (visited Oct 10, 2012).
32 See Dessler and Parson, The Science and Politics of Cimate Change at 25 (cited in note 2) ("Russia, for example, met the target because of die collapse of the Soviet economy after 1990, Germany because it absorbed the shrinking East German economy, and Britain because it privatized electrical generation and cut coal production.").
33 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), 1771 UN Treaty Ser 107 (1994).
34 United Nations, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Sixteenth Session, UN Doc FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.l (2011) (". . . with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above preindustrial levels.").
35 See Yoram Margalioth, Taxing Multinationals: Policy Analysis with a Focus on Technology, Brit Tax Rev 99 (201 1) (analyzing the importance of positive spillovers across borders for global, as well as national, social welfare). 36 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 110 (cited in note 1).
37 Id at 112.
38 Id. 39 Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons 70 (Clarendon 1984).
40 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 113-16 (cited in note 1).
41 Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making Globalisation Work 1 85 (Norton 2006).
42 United Nations, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Sixteenth Session, UN Doc FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.l at 34 (cited in note 34). 43 See Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 26 (cited in note 1).
44 See Steve Vanderheiden, Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change 107 (Oxford 2008) ("Fair shares, therefore, are not necessarily equal shares. . . . ").
45 Posner and Sunstein, Georgetown LJ at 1569 (cited in note 7) ("Let us assume, most starkly, that the United States would lose, on net, from a climate change agreement that is optimal from the standpoint of the world taken as a whole. . . . The world should enter into the optimal agreement, and the United States should be given side-payments in return for its participation.").
46 Posner and Weisbach, Climate Change Justice at 197 (cited in note 1).
47 Id at 6.
48 See Gary Yohe, et al, A Synthetic Assessment of the Global Distribution of Vulnerability to Cimate Change from the IPCC Perspective That Reflects Exposure and Adaptive Capacity (Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia 2006), online at http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/ mva/ccv/sagdreport.pdf (visited Oct 10, 2012) (showing that developing nations are most vulnerable to modest climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would diminish dieir vulnerabilities significantly, and that developed countries would benefit most from mitigation for moderate climate change).
49 See Ariel Rubinstein, Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Mode!, 50 Econometrica 97, 108 (1982).
50 See Dale Jamieson, Climate Change, Consequentialism, and the Ruad Ahead, 13 Chi J Intl L 439, 467 (2013); Henry Shue, Climate Hope: Implementing the Exit Strategy, 13 Chi J Intl L 381, 393 (2013); Lukas H. Meyer, Why Historical Emissions Should Count, 13 Chi J Intl L 597, 604 (2013).
51 See Ken Binmore, Playing for Real 545-46 (Oxford 2007). The game involves two players who do not know each other, who interact to decide how to divide a sum of money that is given to them. The first player proposes how to divide the sum between the two players, and the second player can either accept or reject the proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives anything. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal. The game is played only once, so reciprocation is not an issue. Offers of less than 20 percent of the sum are often rejected. In games played in poor countries, such as Indonesia, offers were rejected even when they were equal to wages approximately three times the average monthly expenditure of participants. See Lisa Cameron, Raising the Stakes in the Ultimatum Game: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia, 37 Econ Inquiry 47, 47 (1999).
* Professor of Law at Tel Aviv University. I gratefully acknowledge the generous support provided by the Paula Goldberg Fund and the Institute for Law and Economics at The University of Chicago Law School.…
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Publication information: Article title: Analysis of the US Case in Climate Change Negotiations. Contributors: Margalioth, Yoram - Author. Journal title: Chicago Journal of International Law. Volume: 13. Issue: 2 Publication date: Winter 2013. Page number: 489+. © University of Chicago Law School Winter 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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