The ethics of climate change.
Climate change denial is the main barrier to finding its solution, according to Yale University's John Roemer in his lecture on "The ethics of climate change", part of the Re-City platform's "Facing Climate Change" cycle. The conference was organized by Fundacio Catalunya Europa in collaboration with BBVA, and was supported by Barcelona City Council, the "Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona" and the Department of "Territori i Sostenibilitat" of Generalitat of Catalunya.
The American economist referred to those who questioned the existence of climate change and opposed cooperation between countries to fight against its effects, such as the President of his country, Donald Trump. According to John Roemer, without cooperation it will be very difficult to comply with the Paris Agreements and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, he was very critical of Donald Trump's decision in 2017 to withdraw the United States from the agreements signed in Paris by 195 countries on December 12, 2015. A decision that Roemer deeply regrets because, in his view, the US has done nothing to fight against climate change since then. Luckily, some states, like California, are making progress and introducing legislation on their own. According to Roemer, as long as voters keep Trump in the Oval Office other countries will have to put more pressure on the United States not to completely disassociate themselves from the tackling this global problem.
However, John Roemer described the Paris agreement as a very important but insufficient exercise in cooperation, with no way of checking the degree of compliance. Even assuming that each country met its targets, this would still not be enough to mitigate the consequences of global warming.
Cooperation, the key to success.
John Romer gave his lecture on December 11th in front of a full auditorium, at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona. He outlined his theory on making the fight against climate change compatible with economic growth, helping to reduce inequalities between countries in a sustainable way and with the least ecological impact on the world's population and future generations. The conference was moderated by Humberto Llavador, professor at UPF and the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and, along with Roemer and Professor Joaquim Silvestre of the University of California, author of the book: "Sustainability for a warming planet", published by the University of Harvard. The book won the Catalunya d'Economia Award in 2017.
The system that the three authors propose is based on a tax on companies for the use of each ton of carbon, leading to an end of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. The money raised would be allocated to a global fund that would serve to compensate the poorest countries and help them to develop. All countries would have to unanimously agree on a carbon price and a limit on emissions to avoid exceeding the 1,5 ° C of global warming established by the IPCC in its latest report. It would also set quotas and annual permits for each country to control gas production. The objective of the tax is not only to raise funds but also to encourage companies to abandon the use of carbon and progress towards renewable energies. Roemer estimates that in 50 or 75 years the use of carbon could be reduced by 95% if this system were introduced.
In his study, he estimates that the tax should be about 135 dollars per tonne of carbon, and the global fund would add up to a trillion dollars, providin g 500 billion dollars a year to help countries with the least resources. This figure is five times higher than the funds provided for in the Paris Agreements. Roemer has simulated 40 years of the system, but has not yet foreseen a start date, stating simply that the sooner it starts, the better.
In this system, the most polluting countries would be the ones paying the price of pollution. The US would contribute $175 billion for example; China, $136 billion; Japan, $19 billion; and Europe, $14 billion. On the other hand, the African continent would receive $331 billion from the fund.
It is a system that does not impede growth or impoverish countries with fewer resources. It also corrects inequalities, thanks to a principle of solidarity for coping with the biggest problem facing our civilization. But the key to the success of the system, according to Roemer, is cooperation between all countries, the design of convergence policies and the creation of restrictive measures to curb the inequalities that generate economic problems such as unemployment, or that boost political populism.