Say, How Do We Get Buy-In For Net Zero Or Something

By “buy-in”, the article means “how does government force this on citizens?”

How do we get public buy-in for net zero?

There are warning signs in relation to popular consent for the ‘net zero’ project. And we don’t need particularly long memories to recall the risks of there being two parallel national conversations about an important issue based on very different views. As with Brexit, certain politicians stand ready to exploit opposition to climate change just at the time when we start to get to the pointy end of reducing emissions, when the less visible actions have largely been carried out, and people will start to have to make more far reaching changes to their daily lives.

Carbon pricing is a potential flash point. We have many different carbon pricing instruments already in the UK – the Emissions Trading Scheme, Road Fuel Duty, the Climate Change Levy to name just some, but they are either very well established, or largely invisible to consumers. On the one hand environmentalists would argue that they are neither high enough, comprehensive enough, or straightforward enough. On the other, suggestions of applying carbon pricing to domestic gas or to meat produce outrage.

In this context I suggest 3 steps to help build consent for the harder next steps which are to come.

  1. Use carbon pricing where it ‘works’ (to reduce emissions) rather than where it just ‘hurts’.
  2. Target a carbon dividend where it is deserved and where you get ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of a reaction. This means focusing it on the young who are those who will lose out most from climate change.
  3. Give everyone an immediate financial stake in the net zero project – a small income from the state calculated as a share of that part of the economy which is long term sustainable and which will build in a measurable way as the transformation, of which they are part, takes place.

This is more realistic (and ultimately better) than more ambitious, but politically and economically unfeasible schemes such as a high pan-economy carbon tax or a universal basic income.

So, basically slap citizens with a government driven carbon pricing scheme, then give them so cash as a bribe to ignore how much their cost of living has gone up. How does any of this create public buy-in? Or, by public, does Kevin Langford mean “government buy-in?” Because, he really doesn’t truly explain how any of this gets buy-in from citizens, including those young folks who will be hit with carbon dividends. If people really cared about this in practice, rather than theory, they’d be doing it on their own.

We are looking to build an economy and a society which is sustainable.  We want everyone to buy into that. An oft reported comment in the Brexit context – that’s your GDP, not ours – illustrates how many people don’t really buy in; for many it’s not ‘our’ GDP – and its not ‘our’ net zero either. How do we tackle this?  Let’s agree a measure of our economic progress towards a green economy – call it sustainable GDP. And then distribute – from tax revenues – a small share to every working age adult in the country.  This makes progress apparent now – in a way which avoiding a catastrophe at some point in the future isn’t.

What’s this “we”? Why don’t these people go off and do it in little communities, show us how it works? Live the carbon neutral net zero life. Leave the rest of us out of their cult.

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