Some people think the environment is a matter of life and death. They’re wrong, it’s more important than that.

With apologies to Bill Shankly.

The scale of the environmental challenge is clear to many people. However, the solutions in terms of decarbonisation divide rather than unite people and states. I am pessimistic about the agreement of measures to provide a measured decarbonisation of the economy. The failure of the EC to get agreement on a carbon element in a revised Energy Tax Directive is indicative.

At a citizen level, the gilet jaune protests in France demonstrates the problem. Measures to increase petrol prices and lower speed limits were seen as an attack on the living standards and lifestyle of rural and poorer sections of the French population. I suspect that this reaction would be a common one in OECD countries.

The problem is that policies to decarbonise by pricing carbon are inherently regressive and ordinary citizens perceive this. They also question the opinions of “experts” – the volte face on diesel cars is an example. If they can get diesel so wrong, so recently, then how can ordinary citizens trust what the experts say about climate change and carbon?

This is the problem with top down, internationalist solutions to climate change. More and more effort is spent on complex mechanisms to price carbon, but implementation doesn’t keep pace with this.

I believe that we do need to decarbonise, but more intellectual horsepower needs to be spent on policies that address the issue of regressive taxation if the traditional part of society is to buy into the scale of change required.

Decarbonisation is going to be expensive, there are three ways to pay for this – consumers, government through taxation ie taxpayers and business ie shareholders and employees. This is not easy and people will see through those who maintain it is, unfortunately Ocasio-Cortez in the US is the latest to promise the earth.

 

 

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