Thomas Piketty, the economist has called for the ban of private jets as part of efforts to address climate change.
Piketty was quoted as saying that questions of social and economic class must be at the centre of our response to the climate crisis, to address the huge inequalities between the carbon footprints of the rich and poor and prevent a backlash against climate policies.
In an interview, Piketty said that regulations will be needed to outlaw goods and services that have unnecessarily high greenhouse gas emissions, such as private jets, outsized vehicles, and flights over short distances.
He stated that rich countries must also put in place progressive carbon taxes that take into account people’s incomes and how well they are able to reduce their emissions, as current policies usually fail to adjust for people’s real needs.
“We have to put class and the studies of inequality between social classes right at the centre of our analyses of environmental challenges in general,” Piketty said. “If you don’t, you will just not be able to get a majority [of people in favour of strong action] and will not be able to make it.”
The prominent French economist is the author of the seminal work Capital in the Twenty-First Century and one of the world’s leading thinkers on inequality. His work was highly influential after the financial crisis of 2008, and he is increasingly turning his attention to the climate crisis as a co-director of the World Inequality Lab.
Piketty said that while environmentalists have taken aim at developed countries, contrasting their high emissions with the plight of the developing world, any form of class analysis – addressing the concerns of poor people within rich countries – has been largely missing.
“One of the big failures of the environmental movement so far has been that they tend to ignore the class dimension and social inequality. I find it very striking.”
He said “the issue of carbon inequality was now one of the world’s most pressing problems. The carbon inequality gap “is now bigger than it has been since the 19th century,”. This is a major factor in the attacks that are being made on climate policy from some quarters,”.
He maintained that poorly targeted policies on energy around the world place a greater burden on poor people, for whom energy, food and housing take up far larger shares of household budgets than for the well-off. This, according to him, is provoking a backlash.
“If climate policies are seen as unfair, affecting people on low incomes while those with luxurious lifestyles carry on untouched, protest movements will emerge, like the “gilets jaunes” who brought France to a standstill five years ago,” he said.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.