What would energy policies and carbon reduction policies look like, if they put people and planet first – well before shareholder profits? And if they aimed to create environmental justice?
Protecting the atmospheric and environmental commons
So far there’s been very little public discussion of this. But in the USA lawsuits in all 50 states are being filed against the government for its failure to protect the atmospheric commons.
How to hold companies responsible for their actions?
Treating the atmosphere as a something we all hold in common gives rise to some ideas:
- Energy generation, distribution and pricing are political issues, because they determine how an essential service is distributed across society and the economy. As such, they should be subject to proper democratic, regulatory control, on the basis that energy is treated as a public good that everyone has affordable, adequate access to.
- It’s surely the business of government to provide political solutions to the problem of corporate carbon emissions pollution, through economic policies (such as taxation and public spending) and also through the introduction of new legislation. For instance creating a new crime of ecocide could radically cut carbon emissions. Changes to company law could make company executives legally responsible for their actions, and make companies adopt the goal of maximising social and environmental benefits for their employees, customers and neighbourhoods – rather than maximising profits for their shareholders. There is an interesting article/interview about ecocide here. You can also sign a petition to world leaders to introduce an Ecocide law at the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
- The Stern Review, which underpinned the UK Climate Change Act 2008, says that climate change is the result of a “market failure” that lets companies get away with not paying for the costs of their greenhouse gas pollution. But it’s also the result of regulatory failure, because governments have failed to regulate companies to stop them damaging society, their staff and the environment. Attempts to make the public bear the costs of this combination of market failure and regulatory failure, by imposing various kinds of “austerity” or “behaviour change” measures aimed at reducing climate change, are inappropriate and oppressive.
European Citizen Initiative for the European Charter of the Commons
A group of Italian and French universities, together with the Municipality of Naples, are using the Lisbon Treaty Regulation No. 211/2011 (which permits Citizen Initiatives to present proposals to the European Commission) to call on the European Commission to adopt their European Citizen Initiative for the European Charter of the Commons. This seeks legal status and protection of the commons within the European Union.
What do you think? What kind of climate change policies do you want, at local, national and international levels?