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Piketty: Rich individuals must foot bill for climate change

Nov 5, 2015 | News

(05 November 2015) – Individuals, not states, should be charged for the CO2 they emit. This idea is central to the system proposed by French economist Thomas Piketty, which would place more responsibility for climate change at Europe’s door.

France’s star economist Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has teamed up with with Lucas Chancel, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), to present a new approach that takes CO2 emissions into account on an individual basis, rather than by country.

Piketty proposes a method of calculation based on the amount of CO2 produced, but also consumed by each individual, which would radically change our idea of each person’s responsibilities. Under this system, the carbon balance sheet of European citizens, who are normally considered as relatively ‘light’ emitters of CO2 per individual, would be significantly altered, as the greenhouse gases associated with consumer products would be taken into account.

According to Piketty, “income inequality is more and more closely linked to inequalities in CO2 emissions”: it is the rich Europeans, Americans and Chinese that emit the most CO2, while the emissions from the world’s poorest citizens are falling. The richest 1% of Americans, Luxembourgers, Singaporeans and Saudis emit more than 200 tonnes of CO2 per person per year; 2,000 times more than the poorest in Honduras, Rwanda or Malawi.

The economists propose two solutions: either to implement an effective carbon tax to finance climate change adaptation and protect those on the smallest incomes, or to increase the tax on air tickets. This would be “easier to implement but less well targeted at top emitters”, the economists admitted. (EurActiv)

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