Two leading Oxford University economists have wared the government of the urgent need to tackle climate change at a conference in Oxford to launch a new book. Professor Jonathan Michie has drawn up a list of top ten policy proposals, stressing there can be no ‘pick and mix’ option but ‘a whole range of policy measures needs to be pursued as a coherent package’.
Professor Michie will argue that instead of relying on market measures, governments need to introduce tougher regulation, including legal restrictions on pollution, accompanied by collaborative work with scientific experts and company decision-makers to ‘combat the culture that otherwise supports non-compliance’.
He said: ‘The credit crunch in 2008 showed that economic policy was inadequate – ‘light touch’ regulation turned out to be ‘soft touch’ regulation. The Chairman of the US Federal Reserve blamed this on a ‘flaw’ within mainstream economic thinking. In truth there were many flaws and these are leading to equally inadequate policies on the environment.’
The ‘top ten’ policy proposals advocated in the book The Political Economy of the Environment, to be presented at the conference, include:
1. Governments need to promote Research and Development, market development policies and financial incentives for renewable energy technologies; carbon capture and storage technologies; energy efficiency at home, in business and by government; and reducing deforestation.
2. Tougher environmental standards, codes, regulation and legislation are needed to stimulate green innovation and enhance long-term planning by companies.
3. Governments need to introduce new taxes, fines, subsidies and rewards to encourage environmental awareness and change behaviour.
4. Policies are needed to counter short-term decision-making by firms (an issue being investigated by the Commission on Ownership on which Professor Michie serves).
5. Use of public-ownership stakes in, or loans to, a small number of firms to adopt environmentally friendly technologies.
6. A Green New Deal to create the productive infrastructures for those wanting to adopt new green technologies.
7. New regulation should be accompanied by collaborative research to persuade the public why they need to adopt measures and ‘combat a culture of non-compliance’.
8. The need for greater interdisciplinary work to understand the issues involved with the government, research councils and universities promoting the merits of such research.
9. A broad portfolio of measures is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
10. Influence customer preference by providing more information on carbon emissions, such as through a colour-coded index scheme.
Also presenting new research, contained in a chapter of the book, Professor Sir David Hendry lays out evidence that the five episodes of major extinctions of species in the past have been caused by climate change, so we must not ignore the present signs of climate change. He will argue that ‘we cannot preclude that homo sapiens would suffer greatly if the resulting resource strains led to mass migration, social unrest or even nuclear wars’.
World-leading econometrician and a member of the Government’s Foresight Panel, Professor Hendry suggests that: ‘the evidence from the great extinctions of the past 500 million years is a major warning from the distant past, the dramatic relevance of which has become increasingly clear the greater the knowledge gained about their causes.’
‘That research activity and the implications arising from it intrinsically draw on the expertise of dozens of disciplines, as few individuals can span the entire spectrum of sciences involved. The very different approaches, types of measurements, and sources of evidence across such a range of disciplines makes for a compelling case: climate change is the main culprit of previous mass extinctions, albeit with several different triggers. Humanity is the latest trigger.’