LFacing it: It seems unlikely that the Earth’s temperature will stay below a 2 ° C rise. If we continue to do business as usual, the world is on track to heat up to 3C, at least by the end of this century. With current global emissions, the carbon balance left if the temperature stays below 1.5 ° C will be exhausted in six years. The paradox is that global support for climate change measures has not been so strong. According to a recent United Nations poll, the vast majority of people around the world see climate change as a global emergency. So what was wrong so far?
There is a fundamental problem with the modern debate on climate policy: it rarely admits inequality.. Poor households with low CO2 emissions naturally expect climate policies to limit their purchasing power. In return, policy makers are afraid of political backlash if they demand faster climate change measures. The problem with this vicious cycle is that it lost us a lot of time. The good news is that we can end it.
Let’s look at the facts first. While 10% of the world’s population accounts for about half of all greenhouse gas emissions, the lower half of the world accounts for only 12% of all emissions. This is not just the difference between a rich country and a poor country. Poor countries have huge emitters, and rich countries have low emitters.
For example, consider the United States. Each year, the poorest 50% of the US population emits about 10 tonnes of CO2 per capita, and the wealthiest 10% emits 75 tonnes per capita. It’s a gap of 7 to 1 or more. Similarly, in Europe, the poorest half emit about 5 tonnes per person and the wealthiest 10% emit about 30 tonnes. This is a 6 to 1 gap. (Now, this data World inequality database.. )
Where do these great inequality come from? Rich people emit more carbon through the goods and services they buy and the investments they make. Low-income earners emit carbon when they use their cars or warm their homes, but indirect emissions, that is, emissions from purchases and investments, are significantly higher than those of the rich group. It will be less.The poorest half of the population Owns little wealthThat is, we take little or no responsibility for the emissions associated with our investment decisions.
Why are these inequality important? After all, shouldn’t we all reduce emissions? Yes, but obviously some groups have to work harder than others. Intuitively, you might think of a big emitter, the rich, here. Indeed, and also poor people have less ability to decarbonize their consumption. Therefore, the rich should contribute most to controlling emissions, and the poor are empowered to cope with the transition to 1.5C or 2C. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening – if anything, what is happening is close to the opposite.
It was evident in France in 2018, when the government raised carbon taxes in a way that would have a particularly big impact on rural low-income households, without significantly impacting the consumer habits and investment portfolio of wealthy people. Many families had no way to reduce their energy consumption. They had no choice but to drive a car, go to work and pay a higher carbon tax. At the same time, the aviation fuel used by the rich to fly from Paris to the French Riviera was exempt from tax changes. The reaction to this unequal treatment ultimately led to the abandonment of reforms. These politics of climate action, which do not require great effort from the rich but hurt the poor, are not unique to any country. The fear of unemployment in certain industries is regularly used by business groups as a debate to delay climate change policy.
Countries have announced plans to significantly reduce emissions by 2030, with most countries planning to reach net zero around 2050. Focus on the first milestone, the 2030 emission reduction target. Recent researchThe poorest half of the population of the United States and most European countries has already reached or almost reached their goals, as expressed in per capita terms. This is not the case at all if the middle class or HNWIs are well above or below their goals.
One way to reduce carbon inequality is to establish individual carbon rights, similar to the schemes used by some countries to manage scarce environmental resources such as water. Such an approach inevitably raises technical and informational issues, but it is a notable strategy. There are many ways to reduce the country’s overall emissions, but in the end, anything other than a strictly egalitarian strategy will inevitably be more for those who have already reached their target levels. It means demanding climate mitigation efforts. That; this is basic arithmetic.
Undoubtedly, deviations from the egalitarian strategy will justify a serious redistribution from the rich to the worse and compensate for the latter. Many countries will continue to impose carbon and energy taxes on consumption over the next few years. In these contexts, it is important for us to learn from previous experiences. The French example shows that it shouldn’t. In contrast, the implementation of the British Columbia carbon tax in 2008 was successful. The provinces of Canada rely heavily on oil and gas, but most of the resulting tax revenues are directly cash to supplement low- and middle-income consumers. payment. In Indonesia, the end of fossil fuel subsidies a few years ago not only meant additional resources for the government, but also higher energy prices for low-income households. Initially very contested, the reforms were accepted when the government decided to fund universal health insurance and support for the poorest.
To accelerate the energy transition, we also need to think outside the framework. For example, consider progressive taxation to replenish pollution. This will accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels by making access to capital more expensive for the fossil fuel industry. It will also generate significant income that governments have the potential to invest in green industry and innovation. Such taxes are more politically accessible than standard carbon taxes, as they cover a portion of the population rather than the majority. At the world level, a modest wealth tax on millions of people who have replenished pollution can generate 1.7% of world income. This could fund most of the additional investment required each year to respond to climate mitigation efforts.
Whatever the path society has chosen to accelerate the transition, and there are many potential paths, it is time to admit that deep decarbonization is not possible without a profound redistribution of income and wealth. came.
We cannot deal with the climate crisis without addressing global inequality.Lucas Chansel
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