"Going green" is a hot buzz phrase among enlightened intellectuals, but among the politicians that make national policy, going green is often viewed as a fast track to an in-the-red budget. This sentiment holds true in the United States, India, China and just about everywhere else, too. Sure, there are pockets of advocate states and nations dedicated to addressing climate-change, but they face an uphill battle. (Learn more about going green in our special feature: Green Investing.)

The Costs of Going Green
The reluctance to address the forces that are polluting the planet always comes down to money. The following are six of the major hurdles holding countries back from going green.

Power Generation
Power generation fuels economic growth. Coal is still king when it comes to generating cheap electricity and heating homes. In less sophisticated nations, burning wood and dung provide heat to cook. The majority of the haze over the Indian Ocean is attributable to what is referred to as "biomass burning." It comes courtesy of cook fires fueled by animal dung. (Learn to save on your own utility bills, read Ten Ways To Save Energy And Money.)

Black gold deserves its own category. There's big money in fossil fuel. Gasoline and automobiles provide economic grown, create suburbs, lead to dependence on fuel and generate big profits. Nobody bikes to work in Minnesota in February.

Clean Comes at a Cost
Environmental safeguards aren't free. Everything from air scrubbers on smokestacks to waste disposal for hazardous chemicals does not come cheap. Research and development costs are significant as are the costs of actual implementation.

Compliance Certification isn't Free
Even countries that want to do the right thing face the challenge of compliance certification. Corporations have poisoned the ocean with mercury, ruined lakes and streams with PCBs, and blighted landscapes with heavy metals. If watchdogs aren't watching, the bad guys often do business as usual. Unfortunately, it costs money to mandate compliance. (Read more in What Does It Mean To Go Green?)

Why Me?
Countries that comply with environmental best practices in essence subsidize those that don't. If one nation cuts back on its oil usage, other nations get to buy oil at a lower price. The oil-producing nations certainly won't stop taking it from the ground. They'll just sell more at a lower price to make up the profit difference. The result? More pollution.

Country-Specific Challenges
Countries that can't feed their citizens don't spend money on clean power generation. The same goes for countries where unemployment is approaching double digits. The need for economic growth leads to a "nobody wants to be first" attitude when it comes to biting the bullet on pollution.

Powerhouse Nations Set the Tone
Tiny rich Scandinavian countries do a good job in going green. In fact, they are the global leaders in going green. It's too bad they're tiny. Giant poor nations (think China and India) do a terrible job. They claim to be too poor to focus on environmental impact, and they have a point. When you can't feed your people, you spend your time and money worrying about food, not about how it gets cooked.

The United States is no better. The U.S. signed but refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an environmental protection effort billed as necessary to sustain life on the planet. The big objections from the richest nation on earth (and the largest polluter in terms of fossil fuel emissions) are all related to economics.

At the bottom line, if the U.S. claims to be unable to afford going green, how can we expect impoverished third-world nations to do so? (For more, read Top 10 Green Industries and Forget Green, "Green" Will Do.)

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Commodities Mutual Funds

    Get information about some of the most popular and best-performing mutual funds that are focused on commodity-related investments.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 4 Asia-Pacific ETFs

    Learn about four of the best-performing exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, that offer investors exposure to the Asia-Pacific region.
  3. Stock Analysis

    The 5 Biggest Russian Oil Companies

    Discover the top Russian oil companies by production volume and find out more about their domestic and international business operations.
  4. Investing

    Have Commodities Bottomed?

    Commodity prices have been heading lower for more than four years, being the worst performing asset class of 2015 with more losses in cyclical commodities.
  5. Professionals

    How Brokers are Candy-Coating Alternatives

    Alternatives have become a sexy choice for many advisors. But they also come with additional risks that are not always clearly spelled out to clients.
  6. Investing

    Costs New Investors in Real Estate Do Not Consider

    As lucrative as real estate investment can be, there are a multitude of costs that new real estate investors must consider.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Who Are Delta Airlines’ Main Competitors?

    Compare the top competitors of Delta Air Lines, Inc. Take a deeper look into the key drivers of competition in the airline industry.
  8. Investing

    Impact Investing Funds: What are the Risks?

    Impact investing funds can carry risks unique to this asset class, including political risk, currency risk and exit risk.
  9. Economics

    The 5 Countries That Produce the Most Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

    Learn about the top five countries, China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan, that are the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions.
  10. Investing

    China's Top Trading Partners

    A slowdown in China, the largest trading nation in the world, will have significant impacts on major trading partners: the U.S., Hong Kong, and Japan.
  1. Where do penny stocks trade?

    Generally, penny stocks are traded through the use of the Over the Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and through pink sheets. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can I buy penny stocks?

    Some penny stocks, those using the definition of trading for less than $5 per share, are traded on regular exchanges such ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How are American Depository Receipts (ADRs) priced?

    The price of an American depositary receipt (ADR) is determined by the bank or other financial institution that issues it. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How are American Depository Receipts (ADRs) exchanged?

    American depositary receipts (ADRs) are bought and sold on regular U.S. stock exchanges, either in the over-the-counter market ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the main risks associated with trading derivatives?

    The primary risks associated with trading derivatives are market, counterparty, liquidity and interconnection risks. Derivatives ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the top high yield bond ETFs?

    Three of the most popular high-yield bond exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, are the Peritus High Yield ETF (HYLD), the SPDR ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!