To claim that countries emit is to make the same category error. Britain, or the United States, does not make carbon or any other kind of emissions. The people in those places might, this is true, in fact it is true that they do.
But the people and the country are not the same thing. To insist that they are is to be very much more statist than the world actually is.
There is a subset to this problem too. If it is the people emitting then it is the people who should be paying whatever damages are being claimed.
Say that the average US lifestyle involves 20 tonnes a year of emissions. That’s not right but it’s about so. We also know what those damages will be from the Stern Review — $80 per tonne CO2-e. Thus, the claim is that each American should be paying out $1,600 a year in damages — and that simply is not going to happen.
We cannot just charge it to their government either, as the government has no money, it only has what it can take in tax from the populace. And it simply is never going to be true that Americans will pay some $500 billion a year (300 odd million people at $1,600 a year) to foreigners.
It might, just about, be true that they will agree to pay a carbon tax of that amount, the revenue raised to be used to reduce their other taxes. And as the Stern Review points out, that does solve our climate change problem.
But no, they just will not, whatever all right thinking people tell them, pay that amount in costs and damages. Won’t happen. Not even worth dreaming that it will.
It does always slightly puzzle me that people try to insist upon such damages. Are there people out there quite so insulated from reality that they really do think the US would pay $500 billion a year? Sirsly?