An investigation into the trading in emissions credits as a free market mechanism to curb global warming

De Klerk, W. A. (Willem Abraham) (2002-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: One of the most topical and widely discussed factors which could lead to the ultimate end of life on earth is global warming and its devastating effects. Several current trends clearly demonstrate that global warming is directly impacting on rising sea levels, the melting of icecaps and other significant worldwide climatic changes. These climatic changes will have a profound effect on the economy of the world as well as having health and social consequences for humans on earth. It has also become evident that mankind has played a significant role in causing global warming through its excessive burning of fossil fuels and its deforestation activities. Mainstream economists have increasingly realised that the prime cause of environmental problems is the absence of markets and more specifically, the absence of private ownership, which provide the foundation for markets. This occurrence has also been described in the literature as the tragedy of the commons. Mankind has come to a point in its history whereby it is in great danger of causing its own annihilation through the destruction of its natural environment. As a result of this, world leaders and many industrialists have realised that it is essential that the world must do something to preserve the natural environment. This was the rationale behind the Kyoto Protocol. In Kyoto 38 industrial states undertook to reduce their total emissions of six important greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent by the period 2012 at the latest. It was agreed in Kyoto that the system to be used to curb global warming should be based on free market principles that would focus on limiting the tragedy of the commons. On this basis it was agreed that the international trade in greenhouse gas emission allowances might fulfil an important role in providing countries and companies with the capabilities to achieve part of their reduction obligations. The Kyoto mechanism was therefore designed on the basis of emissions trading, but also had an equity objective with respect to developing countries. Supporters of the trading scheme are of the opinion that this market will guarantee that certain emission targets are met. In principle, the international trade in emission credits offers several advantages in terms of a flexible and cost-efficient realisation of the reduction obligations undertaken at Kyoto. Supporters of emissions trading are also of the opinion that trading in these gases also has economic and technological benefits. The answer to global warming might be as simple as buy low, sell high conventions. Now greenhouse-gas emissions are becoming a commodity that can be bought and sold on a worldwide scale, just like gold or soybeans. It is expected that the trading in greenhouse-gas emission rights will ultimately constitute the largest commodities market in the world. An international market for greenhouse gas emission allowances is already developing. However, rules governing such transactions are not fully worked out yet. The 178-nation Kyoto Protocol on global warming may provide a start, despite the US's refusal to support the treaty. It will be the aim of this thesis to provide understanding in terms of the functioning of emissions trading schemes and therefore the Kyoto mechanism as a solution to this problem of global warming. It will also be an important objective of this thesis to provide insight into the issues applicable to climatic change and the Kyoto mechanism.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Atmosfeerverwarming is wêreldwyd een van die mees bespreekte kwessies. Die nadelige effek van atmosfeerverwarming as gevolg van die toenemende kweekhuiseffek, het die potensiaal om tot die uiteindelike uitwissing van lewe op aarde te lei. Verskeie tendense dui daarop dat atmosfeerverwarming 'n direkte impak op stygende seevlakke, die ontvriesing van die pakys by die pole en ander noemenswaardige klimaatsversteuringe het. Indien iets drasties nie gedoen word om atmosfeer verhitting te keer nie, sal klimaatsversteuringe 'n geweldig nadelige effek op die wêreld ekonomie te weeg bring, asook 'n nadelige effek op gesondheids- en sosiale toestande tot gevolg hê. Dit het duidelik geword dat die aktiwiteite van die mensdom, hoofsaaklik verbranding van fossielbrandstowwe en ontbossing, te blameer is vir atmosfeerverwarming. Ekonome wêreldwyd het toenemend besef dat die hoofrede vir omgewingsprobleme, soos atmosfeerverwarming, toegeskryf kan word aan die afwesigheid van markte en meer spesifiek die afwesigheid van privaatbesit, wat in effek die basis van die vrye mark vorm. Hierdie gebeurtenis word in die ekonomiese literatuur beskryf as die "tragedie van die gemene goedere" . Wêreldpolitici en industriële leiers het besef dat die mens by 'n punt in sy geskiedenis gekom het waar hy moontlik sy eie uitwissing kan bewerkstellig en dat iets drasties gedoen moet word om die natuurlike omgewing te beskerm om sodoende volhoubare ekonomiese groei te verseker. Hierdie besef het gelei tot die totstandkoming van die Kyoto Protokol waar 38 nywerheidslande ooreengekom het om voor die jaar 2012 hul totale nasionale emissies van die ses belangrikste kweekhuisgasse met ten minste 5 persent tot onder hul 1990 emissievlakke te verminder. Daar was in Kyoto ooreengekom dat die stelsel wat gebruik moet word om die Kyoto doelwitte te bereik sterk vryemark eienskappe moet besit asook meganismes om regverdigheid en gelykheid tussen lande in terme van kweekhuisgasbeperkings te verseker. Die Kyoto meganismes is ontwerp met sterk vryemark eienskappe, wat basies 'n stelsel is waarvolgens lugbesoedelingsregte verhandel kan word. Hierdie verhandeling van besoedelingsregte kan toegepas word om kweekhuis gasse te verminder. Die Kyoto meganismes en dus lugbesoedelingsverhandeling verskaf buigbaarheid aan besighede en lande om hul onderskeie besoedelingsbeperkingsdoelwitte op die mees koste effektiewe manier te bereik. Die antwoord op atmosfeer verwarming kan dalk so eenvoudig wees soos koop laag en verkoop hoog. Kweekhuisgasse is besig om net soos graan of goud 'n kommoditeit te raak. Daar word verwag dat die verhandeling in kweekhuis gas besoedelingsregte uiteindelik sal groei tot die grootste kommoditeitsmark ter wêreld. Ondersteuners van die Kyoto meganismes is van mening dat kweekhuisgas verhandeling ook ekonomiese en tegnologiese voordele inhou. Dit is 'n oogmerk van die Kyoto meganismes om die verskuiwing van tegnologie tussen ontwikkelde en ontwikkelende lande asook volhoubare groei te verseker. 'n Grysmark vir kweekhuisgas regte is reeds internasionaal, voor die beplande instelling van die Kyoto meganismes, aan die ontwikkel. Die reëls en regulasies vir die Kyoto meganismes is nog nie gefinaliseer nie. Dit en die onwilligheid van die VSA om die Protokol te onderteken, belemmer die vroegtydige implementering van die Kyoto meganismes en die effektiwiteit van die stelsel. Dit is die doelwit van die werkstuk om die leser bekend te maak met die funksionering van emissieverhandeling as 'n vryemark stelsel om omgewingsprobleme soos atmosfeerverwarming te verminder. Die werkstuk beoog ook om die kwessies betrokke by klimaatsverandering en die Kyoto meganismes aan die leser te verduidelik.

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