The now bankrupt merchant bankers, Lehman Brothers, invested heavily in the politics of climate change. The bank released two reports last year on the issue broadly embracing and promoting the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Agenda including emissions trading.
The second report entitled, ‘The Business of Climate Change ll’, went as far as to suggest that it will be possible to reach an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions; indeed within five years.
The following extract gives an insight into the flavour of the report:
“The introduction of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which covers a little under half of the industrial carbon emissions in Europe, has triggered discussion and concern about the impact of such a carbon trading scheme on (European) industrial competitiveness. The concern is that, by acting unilaterally, European firms may be disadvantaged, and the economy thereby damaged relative to non-EU firms and economies.
“As considered in the chapter Emissions trading: grandfathering vs auctioning, any scheme – be it cap and trade, a carbon tax, or whatever – that limits emissions thereby raises the (relative) price of carbon, a proportion of which is in turn passed on to intermediate and final prices. Depending upon whether the emissions permits are issued free or auctioned, firms may or may not experience a decrease in profit. Either way, however, firms stand to be disadvantaged relative to competitors abroad which do not face the increased marginal cost of carbon.
“This loss of international competitiveness could be resolved by the region (Europe in this case) imposing a border tax on imported goods according to their carbon content; or by other economies raising the relative price of carbon, whether by joining the carbon trading scheme or otherwise. The risk with a border tax is of retaliation, and the potential for a trade war.
“More likely, we judge, is that some sort of global scheme to limit carbon emissions, and quite possibly a global cap-and-trade scheme, will be in place within the next five years.”
On the issue of the Stern report and the associated controversy over discount rates, Lehman Brothers again come down on the side of those promoting immediate action against global warming backing “the correct ethical position” over what many would consider prudent economics.
The Lehman Brother’s report acknowledges the assistance of Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and advisor to Al Gore.
The Business of Climate Change ll: Policy is accelerating, with major implications for companies and investors. By John Llewellyn and Camille Chaix, Lehman Brothers, September 20, 2007