Scott Barrett is trying to figure out how to make environmental treaties work. In the recent Environment and Statecraft: the Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making (PDF of chapter one here), and in this profile, What Makes Environmental Treaties Work?, Barrett argues that there's a better answer to climate change than Kyoto:
Barrett wondered whether the answer to a workable treaty on global warming might be to set standards on energy-using technologies. Then trade controls, which provided the stick in the Montreal Agreement, could be used to drive self-enforcement. Remember that the rules of world trade do not allow countries to ban imports made with the use of fossil fuels, but countries can restrict imports that do not incorporate environmental standards (which is why countries can restrict imports of cars not fitted with catalytic converters). Such standards would also be easy to administer; the more countries signed up, the bigger the market for benign technologies and the smaller the market for harmful ones. Presto, a mechanism that encourages countries to sign up and stick to the rules and also discourages free riders.
Here's what I like about this approach: it not only works with market systems (avoiding the whole fight over marketized vs. regulatory approaches which seems to sink every worthwile treaty in the U.S. Senate), it also builds a natural constituency for innovation, and for the distribution of innovation.
I know some of our readers have some experience with international treaty negotiations (I've covered them as a journalist, but that's like saying I can play baseball because I used to be a sportswriter). What do y'all think of this approach? Pros and cons?
(For a more conventional green perspective on international environmental treaties, I also recommend Hilary French's work. You can get a sense of her thinking in this online interview)
(Oh, and I know the image has little to do with the content, but, hey, it's a pretty cool pic, idn't it?)