Friday, July 25, 2008

Taming the Ox: Green Trade and International Cooperation

Arguably the greatest challenge to the proliferation of Green comes from nations like China. However, despite mutual animosity and mistrust, the environmental technology trade between China and Japan affords common ground. Japan is one of the world's Greenest countries, and China is a grateful recipient of Japan's environmental skills and technology. "Japan, on an international level, is a responsible country," says Xia Guang, Vice Director of the Sino-Japan Friendship centre for Environmental Protection. "We recognize that Japan's work promoting environmental protection in China has real seriousness, and we thank the government and people of Japan."

Pollution does not respect national boundaries. Which means all nations have a vested interest in finding ways to cooperate on matters of the environment, particularly when it comes to the worlds greatest contributor of GHG.

Beyond the economic benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gases, the Green movement offers powerful incentives for nations to cooperate. As reported in a recent Time Magazine article, even historical foes can be allied when it comes to Green. "That's certainly true of China and Japan, which, despite their animosity, need each other desperately. China's costly and wasteful use of energy and escalating environmental degradation threaten the sustainability of its economic boom. Japan, one of the greenest, most energy-efficient countries in the industrialized world, is brimming with the know-how that could help China alleviate these problems. China could benefit from Japanese technology in everything from advanced nuclear reactors to clean steel mills to hybrid cars. And Japan has every incentive to sell that technology to generate new business for its otherwise sluggish economy. Green tech is leapfrog tech: it will allow emerging economies to jump to the leading edge." Japan's provision of cleaner technology strikes the perfect balance between altruism, self interest and trade. As reported in the same article, "Environmental protection isn't just a good-neighbor policy; it's an industry, and a new way for Japan to turn a profit from China's economic boom. Selling eco-friendly technology is potentially big business, and one in which Japanese firms still have a tremendous competitive advantage."

As illustrated in the relationship between Japan and China, Green trade affords powerful incentives for international cooperation. One of the major problems remaining is China's notorious disrespect for intellectual-property rights. But even here China's need for Japan's Green technology may foster cooperation and embolden Beijing's efforts to enforce intellectual property rights laws.

"[T]he potential benefits of cooperation on the environment, are compelling. "The environment is a mutual problem," says [Japanese] Environment Minister Kamoshita. "So, concretely, we benefit by working together." If so, a repaired relationship between Japan and China could make the war against global warming a lot easier to fight."

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