Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And Riding to the Defense of Developing Country Airline Companies Is…..

Martin Khor has made a career of fashioning progressive arguments in favor of developing country business interests. His latest tack is to denounce the intention of the EU to charge a carbon tax on flights to European airports. It’s a violation of national sovereignty, he says, practically a reimposition of colonialism. It forces people in the poor countries to pay for a problem that was caused by the rich. It will be much too expensive. Such an awful idea.

One complaint in particular struck me: the EU has no business imposing a carbon tax on flights over non-EU airspace. Presumably the solution is to monitor the flight path of each plane and prorate the tax on the basis of its route. Planes will be zigzagging to avoid the surcharge, of course, and who knows how international airspace will or won’t be treated.

I would be the last person to defend the halting, timid and largely captured EU carbon regime; nevertheless more carbon pricing in this and other spheres is surely better than less. I would ask those inclined to give Khor the benefit of the doubt to consider two propositions. First, not taxing carbon is subsidizing it, since the costs it imposes on current and future generations, not least the poorest and most vulnerable of us, is real. Second, in the absence of a strict global agreement, meaningful action against climate change is necessarily national and regional, and no jurisdiction will step forward unless measures are taken that neutralize the advantages that foreign businesses have if they are free from carbon constraints.

If Khor is really concerned about the well-being of people in the bottom billions, he should raise questions about where the carbon money is going, and who benefits from free permit allocations and dodgy offsets.

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