The rest of the world will hurt their poor if only we hurt ours first

Rupert Darwall in the WSJ, on international climate “deals.”  The argument for acting alone rests on a belief in political rochambeau: other nations will hurt their poor if only we hurt ours first.  The argument for acting collectively rests on a dangerous conceit.

Since Copenhagen, the principal motivation of Western leaders has not been to reach an effective agreement, but to justify their expensive renewable-energy programs. In the U.S., these have damaged America’s energy-cost advantage, which is one of the few pro-growth factors in the anemic Obama recovery.

For the developing world, however, the climate negotiations have always been about how much money they get. From the outset, the talks were predicated on massive aid transfers from north to south. Climate became the most potent bargaining chip in a decades-old demand for aid to allegedly avoid permanent Third World impoverishment.

Defying the assumptions about permanent impoverishment, the growth of the developing world has been spectacular. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reckons that in 2010 developing nations’ share of world GDP was 49%, up from 40% in 2000, and is projected to reach 57% in 2030.

This means more countries generating more carbon emissions. It also means that Obama-style deep decarbonization of the global economy would require that developed countries pay twice over—once to decarbonize their own economies and a second time for developing ones.

That isn’t going to happen. Even without China, the developing world is too large for the indebted, stagnating developed world to pay for global decarbonization.

If the West wants a fig-leaf climate agreement, however, it will have to at least promise to pay for one. At Copenhagen, developed nations pledged $100 billion a year of climate aid by 2020. The U.N. is having as little success raising money as it had in cutting emissions. So far it has recovered only $9.3 billion of one-time pledges.

Developing nations are already demanding early capitalization of the Green Climate Fund. A deal in Paris would make President Obama’s recent pledge of $3 billion merely the opening round of escalating cash calls on U.S. taxpayers—unless they vote against the party that promises to continue Mr. Obama’s climate policies after his term expires.

For Republicans, this has the makings of a winning issue. In 2016 Mr. Obama will force Democrats to run, in effect, on a platform of fewer jobs, more-expensive energy and an indefinite commitment to paying billions of dollars of climate aid.

Another concern: The administration’s climate plans involve a federal takeover of electricity generation, a critical segment of the economy. Kind of like the way ObamaCare took over health care. We can see how that’s working out.

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