Ben Askell’s final Reith Lecture on ‘Our Democratic Future’, called for a truly democratic responses to the problem of climate change and emphasised the need for a fair, redistributive carbon tax. (Extract below, note that Ben Askell is citing the earliest examples of CI implementation which have been more widely analysed in the academic literature).
To avoid the direst risks of climate change, of a rise in temperatures that we can’t mitigate, we will first need to overcome the shadow of the present, and
that’s not going to be easy because reducing emissions means restricting people like us, the democratic public, from doing things we like to do. And today’s a
defining moment in the politics of climate change because right now, pollsters can find enormous support in the abstract for ‘net zero’ policies, but when we
come to specific policies, where the short-term costs veer up suddenly, well, then politics seems to get rather harder.
In London, a recent parliamentary by-election was swung by discontent with the expansion of an ultra-low emissions zone. In the Netherlands, the Farmer-Citizen party came from absolutely nowhere to win the most seats in the Dutch Senate on, get this, a policy of removing a ban on nitrogen-producing insecticides, which seems like a pretty niche manifesto policy. They do seem like small-bore policies, but the thing about them is they hit particular groups – they hit drivers or farmers with limited incomes to absorb the costs. And the proponents of such policies often preach about the importance of climate change and air pollution, as if a sermon alone should stop all opposition.
The politicians need to accept that there are short-term costs to achieving a long-run net zero future. It’s no use berating people, especially when they can vote you out, so the most effective policies are going to be those that give with one hand while they take with the other.
So, in Switzerland, for example, their carbon tax falls if the country meets its emissions targets, so it’s a nice incentive to burn less gas. In British Columbia,
the proceeds of their carbon tax are used to reduce business taxes, provide tax credits to low-income families, and tax rebates to every resident. So, if you want
to cut carbon, you need to learn to cut deals.
For a summary of the CCI analysis of COP28 delivered by Cathy Orlando, CCI Program Director on 20/2/23, see blog.