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Climate Change

China, the US and clean energy cooperation

Justin Yifu Lin's picture
 Photo: istockphoto.com

Presidents Hu and Obama created buzz earlier this week in Washington when they met on pressing bilateral issues, including US-China business and investment regulation, trade, currency imbalances and security concerns. US-China clean energy cooperation is an important part of that bilateral dialogue (see transcript of my intervention at a January 18 US-China Strategic Forum hosted by Brookings).

Why?
Cooperation between the two countries can yield big economic benefits.  The world is recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In this context, taking advantage of clean energy opportunities is crucial to fueling a sustained global recovery. 

Of Dark Matter and Domesday

Kirk Hamilton's picture

As surprising as it may seem, there is a deep dark secret at the core of the System of National Accounts (SNA) – the accounts used by Finance ministries worldwide to measure economic performance. The numbers don’t add up. We can see this in the table below, showing the net worth of Brazil and its composition in 2005. The final two lines in the table report a measure of Brazil’s net national income and the implicit rate of return on wealth (the ratio of income to net worth). The return to Brazil’s produced and natural capital is over 18%! As good economists, we should all be investing our pension funds in Brazil. Why? Because financial market data tell us that the long run real rate of return across the broad range of assets averages only about 5% a year.
 

Table – Net worth and net national
Income (NNI) in Brazil, 2005, $million
Produced capital  1,909,259
Natural capital 1,713,939
Net financial assets -117,221
   
Net worth 3,505,978
   
Adjusted NNI 636,356
Implicit rate of return 18.2%
Source: The Changing Wealth of Nations
World Bank (2011)

 

Where is the Wealth of Nations?

Kirk Hamilton's picture

Ghana. Photo: © Arne Hoel/The World Bank

If you have ever had a conversation with a finance minister couched in terms of hectares of forestland or tons of greenhouse gases, then you appreciate one of the central problems of environment and development. It tends to be a short conversation, and for good reason – talking about the environment and natural resources this way simply doesn’t fit the model used by economists. If we want to reach ministers of finance and development planning we need not only to value the economic contribution of nature, but to express it in the framework of the System of National Accounts (which includes, among other measures, Gross Domestic Product or GDP as the predominant indicator of economic progress used by macroeconomists).

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