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October 21, 2016

Environmental Damage: Responsibility of Rich Countries to Pay More

Recent environment summits conclude that there is an urgent need to address environmental dereliction and climate change. One of the avenues proposed for compensating for environmental damage derives from the controversial argument that rich countries should pay more because they are most responsible for the dereliction (Mathiesen, 2013). A discussion of the externality costs’ explanation and the impact of environmental damage helps underpin the position that wealthy economies should take more financial responsibility for environmental deterioration.

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Externality costs concern societal costs that market transactions do not capture, an issue that arises because private calculations of costs and benefits differ from societal valuation (Harris & Roach, 2013). Considering the environment as a resource for the international society, industrialization and economic activities in the developed world produce environmental damage as an externality cost borne by all countries. Given that such rich countries are most responsible for environmental dereliction, it follows that they should pay for the damage caused.

In terms of impacts, many poor countries in the developing world endure the worst consequences of the actions of the rich countries. Structural socioeconomic factors mean that poor economies suffer more from environmental dereliction effects such as erratic rainfall patterns that cripple rain-fed agriculture (Gray, 2012). This observation indicates that rich countries produce significant environmental damage, with such dereliction then affecting poor countries disproportionately. As a result, the responsible rich countries should compensate by paying more for environmental damage.

Ultimately, rich economies are more liable for environmental deterioration while their poor counterparts withstand the worst of the consequences arising from the former’s actions. These observations indicate rich countries should certainly take more financial responsibility for environmental destruction.

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