We examine the concept of firms sacrificing profits in the social interest within the environmental realm, with particular focus on the case of the United States by addressing four key questions. May they do so within the scope of their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders? Can they do so on a sustainable basis, or will the forces of a competitive marketplace render such efforts and their impacts transient at best? Do firms, in fact, frequently or at least sometimes behave this way, reducing their earnings by voluntarily engaging in environmental stewardship? Should firms carry out such profit-sacrificing activities (i.e. is this an efficient use of social resources)? We address these questions through the lens of economics, including insights from legal and business scholarship.
It is exceptionally challenging to conclude a comprehensive and effective multilateral agreement to address global climate change among nations with divergent interests. This is true for many international issues. However, largely because any domestic policy or set of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (whether intended to implement an international agreement or not) extend so deeply into the economic fabric of a nation, climate change negotiations have proven to be exceptionally difficult. The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reinforced doubts about whether the UNFCCC should continue to be the primary institutional venue for global climate change negotiations. This issue brief assesses some other institutions that might serve to supplement or partially replace the UNFCCC.
We describe three essential elements of an effective post-2012 international global climate policy architecture: a means to ensure that key industrialized and developing nations are involved in differentiated but meaningful ways; an emphasis on an extended time path of targets; and inclusion of flexible market-based policy instruments to keep costs down and facilitate international equity. This architecture is consistent with fundamental aspects of the science, economics, and politics of global climate change; addresses specific shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol; and builds upon the foundation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.