Thomas Piketty suggests banning private jets as a way to tackle the climate emergency.
The economist Thomas Piketty believes that in order to effectively tackle the climate crisis, we must prioritize addressing the disparities in social and economic class. This is crucial in reducing the significant differences between the carbon footprints of wealthy and impoverished individuals, and to prevent any negative reactions to climate policies.
During an interview with the Guardian, it was stated that regulations will be necessary to prohibit the use of goods and services that produce excessive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. These may include private jets, oversized vehicles, and short-distance flights.
Developed nations should implement gradual carbon taxes that consider individuals’ incomes and their ability to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. This is necessary as current policies often overlook the specific needs of individuals.
Piketty emphasized the importance of including class and the examination of inequality among social classes as a crucial aspect in our examination of environmental issues. Without this focus, there is a risk of not gaining enough support for effective action.
The renowned economist from France is known for writing the influential book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and is considered a top authority on issues of inequality. His ideas gained significant traction following the 2008 financial crisis, and he is now also focused on addressing the urgent issue of climate change as a co-director of the World Inequality Lab.
According to Piketty, the environmental movement has primarily focused on criticizing developed countries for their high emissions while neglecting the class and social inequality issues within these countries. This has been a major shortcoming of the movement.
He stated that the problem of carbon inequality has become one of the most urgent issues on a global scale. According to him, the gap in carbon inequality has reached levels not seen since the 1800s. This is a significant factor driving attacks against climate policy from certain groups.
Piketty claims that poorly directed energy policies globally disproportionately affect impoverished individuals, as they spend a larger portion of their household budgets on energy, food, and housing compared to the wealthy. As a result, there is growing opposition to such policies.
According to him, if climate policies are perceived as unjust and only impacting those with low incomes while the wealthy continue their lavish lifestyles unaffected, there will likely be protests similar to the “gilets jaunes” that disrupted France five years ago.
All individuals now comprehend that all individuals must put in some work in order to decrease emissions, not just the wealthy. However, this work must be distributed in a manner that is acceptable to the general public. If this issue is not addressed, we will see a widespread protest movement, similar to the “yellow vest” movement. This is currently the reality we are facing.
Piketty proposes implementing both regulations and a “progressive carbon tax” to reduce unnecessary emissions. Under this tax, individuals would receive a free emissions allowance for basic needs, but additional activities like frequent air travel, owning large homes or vehicles would be taxed at higher rates to discourage pollution. The goal is to heavily tax the most polluting activities.
He thinks this method would be well-received. Currently, there are worries among lower-income individuals that they will face the consequences of actions to reduce emissions.
Many individuals, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, believe that they are constantly being targeted and will bear the burden of supporting everyone, especially those living in rural areas. This is a major challenge in our current political climate. We must make every effort to assure these groups that the wealthy are paying their fair share. This includes holding accountable those who can afford luxuries like private jets.
The issue of climate change is often perceived as a conflict between developed nations, known as the global north, and developing nations in the global south. However, there is also a risk that impoverished individuals within wealthy countries may be influenced by nationalistic or populist leaders who are against taking action on climate change.
Piketty suggests that it is important to address the concerns of those who may feel that their interests are not being prioritized. He believes that in order to move away from a nationalistic mindset and foster a sense of unity, we must establish new forms of solidarity that transcend borders. This includes persuading the middle and lower income groups in the global north that by implementing policies that require the wealthiest individuals to contribute more and potentially make changes to their lifestyles, it can ultimately benefit both the global south and the north.
According to Piketty, if we don’t make changes, “we will face severe environmental disaster” because our current strategies are ineffective.
Fifteen top economists and climate experts were consulted by The Guardian, revealing a strong agreement that the significant disparity in emissions between the wealthy and the less affluent countries must be tackled through more targeted policies.