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Are you trying to minimize your carbon footprint, Economist?
A daily chat about tomorrow / #28
P: Good morning, Economist.
E: Good morning, Photographer.
P: Are you trying to minimize your carbon footprint, Economist?
E: Not really. I like it when companies advertise their products or services with low CO2 emissions. And I guess they like it too because it increases my willingness to pay. But I don't do much more.
P: Isn't saving the climate important to you?
E: I advocate rules that help reduce CO2 emissions. Individual willingness to make sacrifices is not one of them. I even consider this counterproductive. We are not saving the climate if we constantly demand that people give up something so everyone else is better off.
P: How do we save the climate then?
E: By setting the rules in such a way that climate protection pays off.
P: How will that work?
E: By limiting CO2 emissions and reducing them over time.
P: For example, by banning driving with fossil fuels?
E: For example. If you only ask people to stop driving cars, those who take social responsibility seriously will stop driving such vehicles. Others will benefit from that behaviour. Because fuel prices go down and roads will be less congested. Whoever behaves morally is then the fool. That's not how society works in the long run.
P: I didn't know that the Economist is a friend of prohibitions.
E: There is a better way.
P: Which one?
E: I've told you before. CO2 emission certificates. In this case, driving with fossil fuels remains legal. However, only those who have bought the necessary certificates are allowed to drive. The advantage: The output can be precisely controlled. And since the certificates can be traded in such a system, CO2 emissions take place where the willingness to pay is greatest. This is called efficiency.
P: I call that unfair. Those with enough money will drive cars with fossil fuels or fly by plane. Goods and services produced with CO2 then become luxury goods. In the end, only millionaires can afford CO2 emissions.
E: In fact, the CO2 emission certificate trading system lacks equity, you are right. But this problem can be solved. Since the certificates have to be bought, the state gets a lot of money. You can give this back to the people. If the state provides more money to those with less, emissions trading creates climate protection AND redistribution from top to bottom.
P: Sounds like a good idea.
E: Especially one that works. Morality is shifted from the individual level to rules and laws. If emissions trading works seamlessly, nobody will need to question their climate behaviour. Anyone who wants to drive a combustion car does so – and pays a lot for it; those who behave in a climate-friendly manner, on the other hand, save money. The decisive thing is that the climate goal will be achieved no matter how one behaves.
P: As if by magic.
E: Man-and-woman-made magic.
P: < silence >
P: I like to pay attention to my carbon footprint. It gives me the feeling that I am doing something for the survival of our planet.
E: In fact, with the CO2 emission certificate, trading morality on an individual level is no longer necessary. Your renunciation of flying by plane will then no longer be of any use. The CO2 that you save will be generated elsewhere. Simply as much CO2 is emitted as society and politics have determined and issued in the form of CO2 certificates.
P: But you could put it another way: Someone can use the CO2 that I don't.
E: That's true. In that sense, you are helping others.
P: See, Economist.
E: I see.
P: Have a nice day, Economist.
E: You too, Photographer.
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