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Fairness of the change

If we want to maintain people’s well-being, we must find the ambition to prevent climate change. Also, mere ambition is not sufficient; we also have to find possible means.

Climate actions often frustrate citizens, as in the case of French ”yellow vests”, a movement of people opposing a fuel tax raise. Even if the actions were valid from a climate standpoint, resistance is still understandable: climate actions often make commodities more expensive. Fuel taxes raise the cost of traffic, and emissions trading has an impact on the price of heat and electricity. Cutting environmentally detrimental subsidies will momentarily hit numerous companies and jobs. If we only attacked the emissions without introducing other changes in society, people with the lowest income level would not be able to adapt to the rising cost of living.

If we lived in an undemocratic and centrally led world, changes could perhaps be implemented quite boldly and swiftly. In a democracy, carelessly planned changes are however doomed to fail.

The keyword here is fairness. Whatever it is we do in the name of climate, our actions must be fair.

In order to prevent climate change, we inevitably have to become more sustainable consumers. But if we do this in a way that decreases demand, and causes the economy and enterprises to suffer, companies will lay people off, and the number of unemployed grows. People will be displeased and vote accordingly. In worst case scenarios, it will be the climate change deniers reigning over us. In other words, if we fail to prevent climate change, we will face a crisis. And if we employ incorrect means for avoiding climate change, we will still face the same crisis.

Consequently, we must not concentrate on merely cutting consumption, but making consumption more sustainable. Jobs, job descriptions and consumer habits may change, but nobody should become unemployed or miss the basic requisites of well-being. We, therefore, need a redistribution of income, lower income taxes, and continued education for people currently in carbon-intensive industries, to name a few. We cannot make the weakest pay for climate change prevention, not in Finland, nor on a global scale.

The most unfair of options would be to fail in the prevention of climate change. Therefore, our actions must be fast and decisive. In societal decision-making, the fastest way from A to B is not always a straight line, and we just have to sail close to the wind. I will discuss this idea further in my upcoming posts.