Why a more equal world would be easier to decarbonise

(The Conversation, 8 Mar 2021) US billionaires experienced a trillion-dollar surge in their combined net worth in 2020, more than enough to hand out a $3,000 (£2,140) stimulus cheque to every American.

Meanwhile, entire sectors were put on hold, removing the basis of subsistence for many people. The World Bank estimates that by the end of 2021 the pandemic globally will have pushed up to 150 million people into extreme poverty, most of them in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Almost everyone agrees that policies tackling inequality have to be at the core of a sustainable post-pandemic recovery. However, some of the immediate benefits of inequality reductions have not received much attention from academics, let alone the public. One such benefit relates to climate change.

The sum of its parts

The amount of money people have available is a big factor in determining what they consume and how much of it, so how money is distributed in a society matters even if total income stays the same.

A typical mega-rich Brit might own a mega-yacht in Monaco and a mega-mansion in London, while for obvious reasons this is not in the realm of possibilities for an average UK household living on less than £3,000 per month. Lower and middle-income households spend most of their money on necessities and subsistence goods: food, clothes, heating, public transport and so on. The mix of income levels matters and determines what is produced and consumed – fewer mega-rich people implies fewer mega-yachts, for example.

External link

The Conversation, 8 Mar 2021: Why a more equal world would be easier to decarbonise