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July 27, 2009

India Picks Economic Growth Over Carbon Dioxide Caps

July 27, 2009
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The Obama Administration and European governments continue to lobby developing countries, such as India and China, to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. But India and China reject these calls because they understand that artificial restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions will harm their economies.

During her recent visit, India’s Environment Minister reminded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that India would not accept caps on their carbon dioxide emissions. According to the Washington Post:

But the clash between developed and developing countries over climate change intruded on the high-profile photo opportunity midway through Clinton’s three-day tour of India. Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh complained about U.S. pressure to cut a worldwide deal, and Clinton countered that the Obama administration’s push for a binding agreement would not sacrifice India’s economic growth.

As dozens of cameras recorded the scene, Ramesh declared that India would not commit to a deal that would require it to meet targets to reduce emissions. “It is not true that India is running away from mitigation,” he said. But “India’s position, let me be clear, is that we are simply not in the position to take legally binding emissions targets.” [emphasis added]

It is refreshing to see that at least some government officials—though not from this country – understand that when you take options away from businesses, you reduce economic activity. If it were really true, as Secretary of State Clinton alleges, that reducing emissions will actually spur job creation and economic growth, then why would the government need to force its plan on the private sector? (See video.)

Furthermore, why stop with caps on carbon dioxide emissions? Why not impose a cap-and-trade plan on the use of steel? All those businesses currently using steel as an input would then have to scramble to find higher-priced substitutes, and this would create jobs in the plastics industries.

Of course the above “logic” is nonsense. Steadily shrinking the cap on permissible emissions will hamper U.S. economic growth and because businesses will be forced to switch to lower-carbon-intensive techniques than they otherwise would have chosen, their output will be lower and the productivity of labor will fall. That is, of course, the intent of the proponents of cap and trade plans including the Waxman-Markey bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives. The so-called “green jobs” created in some sectors, such as wind turbines and solar panels, will be counterbalanced by job destruction in other sectors that rely on fossil fuels and inexpensive energy.

Indian officials have it exactly right: They are being asked to sacrifice the welfare of their own citizens by Western leaders whose countries were built on a foundation of abundant energy.

India’s declaration also undermines the entire rationale for the Waxman-Markey bill. Taken in isolation, some experts contend that the Waxman-Markey caps on U.S. emissions will have virtually no impact on the trajectory of global warming, even taking the standard climate models at face value. Even the most outspoken scientists on global warming agree that unilateral American efforts are pointless, without similar targets being adopted by the developing world.

Proponents of cap and trade have justified its economically crippling, yet environmentally irrelevant, constraints on the U.S. by saying it will provide American negotiators with moral authority when seeking worldwide restrictions on industry. The idea is that we need to impose limits on the U.S. economy before other governments will agree to shackle their own economies in turn.

India, rightly so, has just declared that it will do no such thing. Let us hope that our leaders see the flaws in their logic and reverse course on this job-killing cap and trade plan before it is too late.


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