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Let’s Make A Deal

Dec 1, 2021

Let’s Make A Deal was one of the most popular television programs of my youth. It ran for almost thirty years – first as a daytime program and later in evening prime time slots, as it became more popular. It made Monty Hall, the host, a household name and celebrity.

The premise of the show was to entice audience-selected contestants to trade initial gifts worth a few hundred dollars for potentially better prizes concealed in a box on the stage or behind doors numbered one through three. As the show progressed, contestants were offered more potential trades.

The hook was the chance to trade their known gifts for things of much greater value, such as a new car. Some players were more conservative and rejected the offer to trade their gifts, keeping the “sure thing,” sometimes of lesser value. Other players took more risk and traded valuable prizes for an unknown gift; when the gift turned out to be of no value, it was known as a “zonk” (after the sound that would be made when the booby prize was revealed).

The risks provided the drama that made the show popular. It became so popular that “Behind Door Number 3” became a phrase for taking an unknown risk.

As I write this article, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is starting in Glasgow. The conference will run for two weeks and negotiators from nearly every country will attend in an effort to strike a deal to keep the Paris Accords’ climate targets within reach.

Emissions in the U.S. and Europe have declined as coal-fired generation has been phased out, and renewable energy has taken its place in the energy mix. But, emissions are expected to rise sharply in the coming decades as billions of people rise out of poverty, unless those economies can shift to a lower-carbon path.

Many climate scientists agree the world stands little chance of preventing catastrophic climate change without getting developing countries on board with carbon reduction goals. However, before signing, the developing countries are demanding increases in funding from developed countries to fund the adoption of cleaner technologies that will purportedly address rising sea levels and more powerful storms.

The developing countries insist developed countries have a responsibility to pay under U.N. Climate Treaties because most of the Earth’s warming is the result of emissions from the world’s wealthier nations. Additionally, the developing countries must raise living standards without the benefit of lower-cost fossil fuels, as developed countries used to grow their economies for almost two centuries.

At a July climate gathering in London, South African environmental minister Barbara Creecy asked developed countries for $750 billion annually to fund the developing countries’ transition from fossil fuels and protect themselves from global warming. Bangladesh says it needs cyclone-resistant housing, Kenya wants solar farms and natural gas plants to electrify more of its economy, and India says its climate change plan alone will cost more than $2.5 trillion through 2030. African countries say they need $1.3 trillion annually by 2030.

The developing countries want the funding to be provided as government grants that would not saddle them with debt; they are also demanding control over how the money will be spent without dictates from developed countries and financiers in the U.S. and Europe.

For years, developed countries responsible for the growth of greenhouse gas emissions have pledged to pay developing countries up to $100 billion a year to help with what is thought to be a very expensive transition to cleaner energy. Up to now, they have failed to deliver on that pledge, and apparently, the price of the developing world’s cooperation is going up.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, says, “We should be focused on delivering $100 billion annually before we start talking about huge numbers.” The Biden Administration has committed $11.3 billion annually by 2024 to support the $100 billion goal. Other countries have been much less committed to providing funding for the goal, especially as the world attempts to recover from the economic damage from the Covid pandemic.

However, developing countries want more, much more. They are demanding much more than $100 billion a year to support a climate accord, with no strings attached to the money.

The Glasgow Climate Conference is starting to look more and more like an old Let’s Make A Deal episode. The developing countries keep asking developed countries to trade up trillions of dollars for funding to support expensive renewable energy and transition costs in return for their support of a climate accord. The question is whether the developed countries or the Biden Administration on behalf of the U.S. will choose “Door Number 3” and pay the cost without maintaining any control over the funding. Will the choice solve the existential threat of climate change, or will we get the “zonk” prize?

I hope you have a good month.     

Gary Smith

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