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A Blueprint for a Safer Planet

In his new book economist Nicholas Stern lays out a road map for managing the climate crisis.

His proposal for a global climate deal includes six elements: aggressive cuts in rich countries' emissions; new emission targets for developing countries; an effective international emissions-trading regime; efforts to combat deforestation; new technologies to reduce emissions; and overseas aid to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Stern says the proposal is an integrated package, not a menu of options. The challenge is how to implement it in a coordinated, focused and sustainable way. Existing multilateral institutions are not up to overseeing and enforcing climate commitments and there is no single international fund dedicated to climate change. No deal will work without international collaboration, he says.

One criticism of the book is its blanket acceptance that economic growth leads to future development. The book reviewer, Robert Costanza, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont in the United States, argues that economic growth should not be an end in itself.

Costanza suggests that a global deal for climate change will positively affect global capitalism, arguing that the deal requires new property rights that better value public goods such as the atmosphere. While we cannot assign private property rights to the atmosphere, an international institution could implicitly allocate common rights by charging for carbon emissions.

The key is to find a balance between private and common property, while protecting the commons. Neither socialism nor capitalism have, so far, managed to do it. But we have an opportunity now to find a new balance to help us on the way to sustainable development.

Link to full book review in Nature