Patching up Kyoto

Joseph Stiglitz notes one of the key flaws of the Kyoto Protocol: it doesn’t give countries any incentive to preserve their rainforests, despite the fact that many poor countries have some rather obvious incentives to cut down their forests, and despite the fact that forests obviously play a useful role in keeping carbon concentration in the atmosphere down.

Now some developing countries like Costa Rica have begun paying for environmental services, like forest maintenance, to counteract this trend; but the program could really kick off if rich countries could kick in a few bucks. And why should they do such a thing? Because those countries who have signed onto the Kyoto Protocol are actually being subsidized by rainforest countries:

The Kyoto Protocol has generated new markets for trading carbon emissions, such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). At current carbon prices, the value of carbon sequestration by tropical rainforests likely equals or exceeds the current level of international aid being provided to developing countries. In effect, the poor are aiding the rich.

These are some weird glitches in the whole system, and some leading countries would rather just sit around and wait until 2012 to fix them. That, needless to say, would be far too late.