8 Jun 2010

Climate Change policy: have your say

The Coalition Government's energy and climate change policies are being discussed on their website - a public discussion on key areas. Allegedly departments will then use comments for policy development and the Government will also respond in coming weeks to the most popular areas of feedback. The comments function on the website will close at the end of Thursday 10 June. See here.

My submission to the discussion on Climate Change:

While there are many points I would like to take issue with, one of the most important issues appears not to have even been mentioned - equality. Key obstacles to sustainability are consumerism and opposition to policies which prevent the maximisation of incomes.

The evidence in the ground-breaking book last year, 'The Spirit Level' by Wilkinson and Pickett, is clear - consumerism is a reflection of the social environment created by great inequality. Status competition fuels consumption - our appearances, clothes, the car we drive, our home etc. People in more unequal societies work much longer hours to keep up appearances, spend more, save less and get into debt more.

Britain has become one of the most unequal societies in Europe - but it is not just the poor who suffer from the effects of inequality. All of us do. In the most unequal societies incidences of mental illness are 500% higher. There is also more drug abuse, alcohol abuse, obesity, teenage pregnancies, shorter lives, less well educated children, less patent applications, more crime and more people in prison.

Greater equality will significantly help with all these but it is crucial if we are to have an impact on climate change. Not just to cut consumption but also folk are unlikely to change their way of life and make cuts if the rich are allowed to produce loads more emissions with their bigger cars, bigger homes, holidays by air, and greater consumption. We need to develop a sense of shared participation in tackling climate change - during the second world war the British Government achieved this with more steeply progressive taxes - luxuries taxed and necessities subsidised.
We know that continued economic growth no longer brings real benefits like happiness or levels of wellbeing to the rich countries - but equality does bring tangible benefits.

We can improve our quality of life if we start by reducing the scale of income inequalities.
See more at: www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

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