Thursday, January 25, 2007

Helping to reduce carbon footprints

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has decided to spend £200m in the next 5 years to lighten the firm’s environmental impact (Sarah Butler-The Times 15 Jan). The same paper (David Charter-22 Jan) shows that European business leaders think environmental concerns are more important than sustaining economic growth and over twice as important as promoting free trade. But what if India and China do not share the same concern and fail to act like M&S? The results of concerted action by European businesses and governments on environmental impact will not be seen for many years and may make little difference globally if the rest of the world fails to join in.

However the power of example could help. If European governments manage to manipulate taxes that reduced harmful environmental behaviour without wrecking economic growth the idea could catch on elsewhere. But to change behaviour this way on the scale needed will make the poor poorer and with less choice than they now have. The rich don’t have to bother to change their lifestyle – they just pay the extra. The Citizen’s Royalty (CR) idea would provide a solution. Suppose a government decided to raise fuel taxes yet more, in order to prove their green credentials and reduce consumption. Some of the proceeds of the tax could go towards a regular payment of a CR to everyone. We could all still carry on our essential activity by being recompensed for the rise, but excess would be curbed, as it would become more expensive. The richer among us who didn’t need the CR themselves could donate it to environmental charities.

The conventional way of increasing taxes results usually results in more bureaucracy through increased means-testing for the poor and in more higher earners needing welfare payments. The CR (also known as: Citizen’s Income or Basic Income), is the pro-citizen, green way of the future if we want the state to be rolled back and choice to be returned to people. The book The Free Lunch – Fairness with Freedom covers many areas of citizen-centered new economics in which there is a growing international interest. See also the blogs for December and:

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