I was asked to provide environmentalists' perspective on U.S. proposals for greenhouse gas emission trading between nations. To begin with it should be pointed out that there is no single defined position of environmentalists, but instead a range of opinions. In the U.S., the Environmental Defence Fund has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. proposal; other organizations have been equally adamantly opposed. Environmentalists' divided attitude toward joint implementation and international greenhouse gas trading reflect different assessments of a myriad of concerns. Some of the concerns go to the very core of trading; others are dependent on design of a program.
The US proposal for greenhouse gas emissions trading has two aspects:
1. trading of allowable emissions, or allocations, among countries with binding emission reduction commitments (international allocation trading);and
2. countries subject to binding commitments meeting such commitments by supporting or undertaking emission reductions projects in countries not subject to binding emission reduction commitments (joint implementation).
Although the US proposal is couced in terms of trading between national governments, the ability to participate in trading is likely to devolve to the private sector. Despite the difficulty of making generalizations, environmentalists generally have less concern regarding a program involving international allocation trading and greater concerns regarding joint implementation. Support for either form of international emissions trading is greater if it is in the context of more significant emission reduction commitments.