Where there is despair, there are thinkers who keep their eyes on real solutions
Richard Murphy is an economic justice campaigner. Professor of Accounting, Sheffield University Management School. Chartered accountant. Co-founder of the Green New Deal as well as blogging at Tax Research UK
Cross-posted from Tax Research UK
The world is heading for climate catastrophe. That is not an overstatement. That is a fact. But what can we actually do? What follows may seem radical, but if we aren’t radical in the face of the risk of extinction when else will we be? A thread….
First, we must make our companies account for the cost of stopping their climate emissions, and insist that they do it now. And I mean stopping those emissions. That has to happen.
We also need to accept that if a company can’t stop its climate emissions then it needs to go out of business by the time we have to get to net-zero, or be run under strict government emissions control.
Alternatively, if a company thinks it can be net-zero on emissions we must make it show how, and where the money is coming from to do this. This accounting is key to our future. Maybe 100 companies create 70% of emissions. They must literally be accountable now.
Then we must label all products for their emission content to the time of use. We need to know about this now so we can make informed choices. And I mean all products sold by large companies must be covered by this. Then we know what our actions mean for the planet.
After that we have to tax flights. When 92% are for holidays and a small proportion of society do most of that flying this has to happen. And it has to be progressive, by distance flown and by number of flights a year. It can be done because airlines know who is travelling.
We need to plan increased fuel taxes too. But it is vital that public transport be improved massively, and be significantly cut in cost, to make this possible. We can’t just hit people with extra costs and offer no alternative.
After that, we must require the thermal insulation of all buildings, and that they become power stations in their own right. Homes create 25% of emissions. Those emissions have to be cut dramatically. Grant and loan funding is essential to achieve this.
If grants and loans are linked to energy use via utility suppliers it’s pointless to pretend that we can keep a domestic energy market going. It has to be under state control to integrate the support for energy efficiency required. Nationalisation has to be done.
The same is true of transport, of course. Buses need to join trains back in state control, and under state management too and no new sham management contracts are needed.
We also have to rethink food supply. We have to reduce meat consumption: it may need to be rationed. And we must promote more veg based lifestyles. It’s not that hard, as I am discovering.
Then we tax advertising, and make the rates very progressive: the more expensive the product being sold the higher the tax rate for advertising it, I suggest. Profligacy has to be discouraged. But we must also target high waste products e.g. cheap clothing.
This requires something else: we need to work out how to keep the media going without advertising. That’s a massive requirement, and essential. We cannot depend on burning the plant to get the media we need.
Then ban the vendor of any product from selling debt finance to buy it. The desire to keep us indebted fuels the drive for growth companies pursue. I am not saying ban debt. I am saying stop its instant accessibility to reduce excessive consumption.
We also have to rethink leisure as a low emission activity. That’s a big challenge, except for those of us who probably do it that way already.
What then? Close down coal. Limit gas as soon as possible. Stop wasting money on carbon capture. Invest in tidal energy, because it always flows. Make every building a power station.
Protect our coasts. Build new dams, for example on The Wash and to protect London, and many more places, whilst planning for the likelihood that nuclear power stations will be submerged if action is not taken.
And train everyone who needs the new skills required for this new economy.
In other words, begin the great rethink now – and take action to deliver on it very, very soon. There is no longer any time to wait.