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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Cooperation on technology is necessary

Q: Almost every key question at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen comes down to how should rich and poor countries shoulder responsibility for climate change. What would be a way of reconciling these differences?

This has been a continuing source of tension between rich and poor countries since COP-1 and there has been little progress because the COP process is predicated on an imminent catastrophe instead of a long term challenge that will take a long term perspective to address effectively.

The current financial demands being made by developing countries are nothing more than a request to be bribed and guarantee that differences between the rich and poor countries won't be reconciled easily. And, even if there was an agreement for a smaller financial commitment, there is no reason to believe, based on the history of past wealth transfers that money would be spent wisely.

The best way to achieve real progress, even if it is not the politically correct way, is not bribes but for the developed world to work with the developing world to accelerate the transfer of technology, to provide incentives for increased private investment, and to pursue policies that help these countries grow their economies faster.

There are about 1.6 billion people who lack access to adequate diets and basic necessities, suffer high rates of mortality and lack access to commercial energy. It is unrealistic to expect them to take emission reduction actions when their highest priority is a higher standard of living and sustained economic growth. As these countries grow and become richer they are likely to follow the course of history and invest more in environmental improvement. This is a challenging and long term task but it is an essential one to slow the long term growth in developing country emissions.

At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect developed countries that are experiencing the worst economic recession in decades to make their recoveries that much more difficult by making financial commitments that if kept would just increase deficits and national debts.

Removing barriers to technology transfer and increased private investment along with improved property rights protection is superior to promises of money to buy support for reducing emissions. While it is important to help all developing countries solve their economic problems, China and India offer the most near term promise for increased private investment, increased technology transfer, and more effective actions to slow the growth in their emissions.

By William O'Keefe  |  December 15, 2009; 9:03 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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While it is dismissive and demeaning to describe financial assistance to poor countries as "bribes", I am glad to see there is at least one person affiliated with the oil industry who accepts the evidence of the problem of climate change. And tech transfer should, of course, be part of the solution.

Posted by: post-it2 | December 18, 2009 2:21 AM
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