Category Archives: Environmental

Video: The Story of Bottled Water (2010)

The Story of Bottled Water, released on March 22, 2010 (World Water Day) employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

Our production partners on the bottled water film include five leading sustainability groups: Corporate Accountability International, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, Pacific Institute, and Polaris Institute.

And, for all you fact checkers out there,

Climate Change, the Global Economy, and the IMF

Climate change, and policy responses to it, will have potentially large implications for global economic performance and development. Deteriorating climatic conditions could lead to sizeable reductions in output and productivity, particularly in the least developed countries; and in exposed sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and tourism. In addition, increased levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) bring the risk of catastrophic events, such as massive flooding of coastal and deltaic areas. Policies responses—both efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to the consequences of climate change—will also impose costs on the global economy (although, if efficiently implemented, these are expected to be lower than those associated with inaction). Reducing emissions, for example, will require incentives for significant investment in clean energy, and to discourage activities with high emissions. In line with its mandate, the IMF focuses on the macroeconomic, fiscal, and financial challenges of climate change and related policies.

Climate change mitigation is one of the world’s foremost policy challenges. In line with its mandate and expertise, the IMF is focused on the macroeconomic, fiscal, and financial impacts of climate change and related policies. The Fund’s activities in the area of climate change are largely demand-driven, and focused on providing advice to member countries where climate change can have a significant impact on economic and financial stability. It also aimsfor example through its research activitiesto promote understanding of the difficult issues of fiscal policy cooperation and design, likely to arise in agreeing and implementing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the framework of which is due to be established at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009.

The macroeconomic and fiscal challenges of climate change

Climate change is in many respects a unique and particularly difficult global economic problem. It involves a global spillover since emitters of greenhouse gases do not bear all the costs from the damage they cause. There is a strong mismatch between the (early) costs of action to limit its extent and the (later) benefits from doing so; and also large differences in how countries have contributed to climate change, and how they will be affected. Finally, there are pervasive uncertainties, including the risk of a catastrophic impact of climate change on living conditions on our planet.

A number of recent publications illustrate the contribution that the IMF can make in understanding and coming to terms with the macroeconomic policy challenges that climate change poses. These include a Staff Position Note—together with an accompanying article in the December 2009 issue of Finance & Development—which evaluates the interactions between the key challenges of promoting more effective international cooperation on climate change, while at the same time seeking to develop strategies to exit from the deepest economic crisis for decades. Other contributions include:

Macroeconomic challenges – A chapter in the Spring 2008 World Economic Outlook on climate change and the global economy sets out the macroeconomic challenges posed by climate change and policies to address the problem. It emphasizes that policies to mitigate climate change can have potentially rapid and wide ranging macroeconomic consequences.

The required establishment of a price on emissions of greenhouse gases would affect countries’ economic growth, saving and investment levels, capital flows, and exchange rates. Yet the chapter also reports simulation results that show how these costs can be minimized if policies are well designed. In particular, policies should be long-term and credible, yet flexible enough to be able to adjust to emerging information and changing economic conditions; and implemented as broadly as possible, while being managed so as to ensure an equitable distribution of costs.

Fiscal implications – A policy paper prepared for the Executive Board of the IMF deals in more detail with the fiscal implications of climate change. These take many forms. Climate change will directly affect tax bases and public spending needs, but beyond this there is also a more purposeful role for government tax and spending policies. To mitigate climate change—that is, reducing its extent by cutting emissions—fiscal instruments (emissions taxes, or cap-and-trade schemes to limit emission) are needed to ensure that the full environmental cost is borne by emitters of greenhouse gases.

Underlying fiscal policy for mitigation is the basic principle that any emitter of greenhouse gases should face the marginal cost to the entire world society of doing so. While this is a simple principle, it raises formidable conceptual and implementation problems, requiring worldwide efforts and solutions.

Public expenditure on adaptation—learning to live with changing climatic conditions—will also be required to reduce societies’ risk exposure through better infrastructure, coastal protection, education, health and water services, and meet other challenges of changing climate. Such expenditure is expected to rise as climate change progresses and could reach more than US$100 billion annually, by 2030 or earlier.

Implications for financial markets – Climate change has implications for financial markets to, with innovative instruments—such as catastrophe bonds and weather derivatives—providing a way to manage some climate-related risks. These too are discussed in the WEO chapter and policy paper, and also in an article in the March 2008 issue of Finance & Development, which contains several articles on macroeconomic aspects of climate change.

The Fund continues to contribute to key fiscal policy issues relating to climate change, including as part of recent policy analysis on food and fuel price subsidies. In the case of fuel markets for example, reducing subsidies is a key first step towards more positive emissions pricing. In addition, Fund staff are preparing a Special Issues paper on the public economics of climate change.

Other environmental work in the IMF

Though it has come to dominate the policy agenda, climate change is not the only environmental issue of potential macroeconomic significance. Others may include:

• local pollution, which can be addressed through environmental tax policy;

• forest and other renewable resource management involving resource tax and concession policies; and

• the appropriate structure of environmental tax systems.

Some of these issues may interact with climate policy issues (such as when reduced deforestation also leads to lower carbon emissions, and when less local pollution is associated with less burning of fossil fuels). However, to some degree, they are also stand-alone issues which, when they become significant to macroeconomic performance, warrant IMF attention.

Source: International Monetary Fund