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John Christensen ■ Online Conference: How to Pay for the Climate Transition

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Wind turbine blade being transported on a truck

This week the Tax Justice Network is holding a virtual conference on the subject of How to Pay for the Climate Transition.  The conference opens on Thursday 10th December at 14h00 GMT with a keynote speech from climate justice activist Suzanne Dhaliwal, founder of UK Tar Sands Network, who will discuss why decolonising climate justice and rebalancing existing power structures must be embedded in progressive agendas.  

The second day of the conference will open at 14h00 GMT on Friday 11th December with a keynote speech by Sven Giegold MEP.  Sven, who is also a founder of the Tax Justice Network, will discuss the European Green New Deal, exploring whether it is in fact Green, New, or even a Deal.

The conference is free to all and you can register here to attend. Download the programme here.

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The most consequential outcome of Joe Biden’s election success will be in the area of mitigating the climate crisis.  A progressive US engagement on this issue will determine whether the threat of damaging and irreversible change is averted, and who might benefit from the trillions of dollars that will be poured by governments in the coming decade into making the transition away from the era of fossil fuels.  This question of cui bono, who benefits, is a key topic of our online conference..

According to the International Energy Agency, global investment in the energy sector must reach US$3.5 trillion annually if we are to limit temperature rises to 2.0 degrees centigrade.  The International Monetary Fund argues that a programme on the scale required to deliver this outcome requires a combination of front-loaded green investments, massive investment into research and development, and a sustained political commitment to raising the price of fossil fuels.  In an interesting sign of changing times, the IMF’s October World Economic Outlook, pushes back against the mantra that we face hard political choices between the economy and the environment (see chapter three here).  In brief, we are entering an era when transiting away from fossil fuels is necessary, possible, and, if properly designed, can address many of the other crises facing humanity and the planet we inhabit.

In a blog published earlier this year Tax Justice Network staff writer Nicholas Shaxson commented:

Many people think that the fight to protect the world’s climate is separate from the struggles to tackle inequality, oligarchy, or racial and gender injustices.  For example, climate activists may favour carbon taxes even if such taxes may hit the poor hard and have regressive economic effects, while campaigners for economic justice may oppose carbon taxes for the same reason.  This is a dangerous delusion: the two struggles are inseparable, and each will fail without the other.”

So this is a moment for progressives across the spectrum to engage with the question of how to finance the climate transition in ways that ensure the benefits of the multiple trillions of dollars of public investment in the coming years accrue to society as a whole and are not hijacked by bankers and private equity funds who see ample opportunity for financialising the future energy market.

Over the two days of our conference we will explore these issues, considering both the economic and political challenges confronting progressives.

The day one programme provides some of the answers to the question of how to finance the climate transition in ways that don’t hand the benefits over to private banks and financiers.  First, we need to lay to rest the neoliberal consensus that governments should relinquish the funding role to the private sector: Germany’s best known economist, Peter Bofinger, will argue that governments can and must borrow and press for central bank interventions to finance the transition.  In the mid-afternoon panel session Laura Merrill, Jacqueline Cottrell and Rose Bridger will consider the billions of subsidy paid annually to the fossil fuel sectors, and to key fossil fuel guzzlers like the aviation and maritime industries.  What could be done if these sums were freed up to fund a just transition away from burning hydrocarbons?  And in the final session of day one, TJN Senior Adviser James Henry will interview Jim Boyce on how a carbon dividend can transform carbon taxation to make it socially progressive.

The second day of the conference, starting at 14h00 GMT on Friday 11th December, will consider some the political changes needed to shape a just transition.  Economist Daniela Gabor outlines the stark choice that needs to be made between what she calls the Wall Street Climate Consensus, involving deep financialisation by private sector players who reap huge rewards while passing the risks to the general public, or on the other hand state-green industrial policies and monetary policies, with large penalties imposed on polluting industries.  She is joined on her panel by Chien-Yi Lu who argues that neoliberalism has deliberately frustrated democracy by replacing our political power to promote progressive ideas with narrow calculations based on individual economic calculations.  In the following session Taxcast producer Naomi Fowler will interview Gail Bradbrook, a founder of Extinction Rebellion, about the extremism of the fossil fuel sector and its supporters.

The conference concludes with a panel discussion involving Molly Scott Cato, Sven Giegold and others.

The conference programme is available here.

Click here to register for the conference.

Image attribution: © Sandy Gerrard 

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