Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monetization of Global Pollution

For the past forty plus years, there has been a concerted effort to resolve the pollution problems of industry and agriculture. One underlying problem has emerged over and over again. It is that the actual decisions are been made by people who are simply unqualified to make those decisions, or worse, are selling an engineered solution whose merit is based primarily on its ownership.

Over and over again, better ways exist but are not deployed because those with their hand on the till cannot profit. Twenty years ago, I was led into surveying the nascent soil remediation business and came away convinced that the whole process was corrupted. It may be better now.

If there is one economic sector that demands a global regulatory protocol, it is the licensing of waste disposal. We already hear about Cap and Trade for CO2. This needs to be extended to every other known pollutant.

This does not mean that just because every metal producer has to pay money to dispose of SOx and NOx that they will all get together to do anything about it. What it does do is define the expense for an entrepreneurial solution while regulatory oversight becomes almost unnecessary except to audit and collect the charge.

Why it has not happened is that waste has been thrown into a global commons. As soon as you have a real problem you shop for a compliant jurisdiction. This facility has had the unwanted effect of shipping dangerous polluters into strange places.

Yet it is obvious that a global disposal charge would immediately focus everyone’s attention on amelioration strategies.

And it might be easier to get a consensus on this before we can get it of CO2. With most pollutants, most countries have little to lose and once everyone understands that the new regime is universal, it is easier to sell politically.
I would like to see the UN reconstitute itself to properly deal with this particular agenda. There exists a global consensus and it simply needs to be mobilized. The economic tools need to be created and managed openly to avoid fraud. And it fraud occurs it is still small enough to not be overly damaging.

It would gain the institution credit that is impossible to get in military adventures.

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