NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Developing Countries Part Ways With Environmentalists

November 18, 2002

Leaders of developing nations wanting to achieve real economic progress are no longer buying the advice of environmentalists to forsake the technologies that have improved the lives of people in industrialized countries.

At the recent United Nations Conference in New Delhi, India, environmentalists wanted developing countries to harangue the U.S. over its withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol. But Third World countries were having none of it.

Leaders of the developing world want to increase their use of fossil fuels and believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will cause them serious economic harm -- while doing little if anything to prevent global warming.

A recent National Center for Policy Analysis report compared the Environmental Sustainability Index with the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom. (The ESI is a product of the World Economic Forum, the Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and the Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network.)

  • The ESI confirms that improving environmental quality in developing countries depends on economic growth -- which leads to higher incomes.
  • Environmental quality degrades during the early stages of economic growth -- but improves after a certain income level is reached.
  • When the Heritage/WSJ index is compared with the ESI, it becomes apparent that freer economies have better records in improving environmental quality -- providing further evidence that free markets and democracy are the best path to sustainability.
  • Thus, by adopting market reforms -- rather than flawed treaties like Kyoto -- developing countries will not only be able to improve the lives of their citizens, but can implement programs that improve air and mater quality, increase the food supply, lessen the impact of and recover from whatever environmental calamities nature may throw at them.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Kyoto Chills Hopes of Developing World," Washington Times, November 18, 2002.


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