By Darwin Friend, Researcher
The world is getting warmer, and to prevent the oncoming environmental disaster we must completely abandon capitalism and the free market, destroying the pillars of our economic prosperity. This is the argument of the radical left-wing campaigners, such as Extinction Rebellion, who are currently camped out across Westminster.
Their ideas, ranging from stopping driving and eating meat to going carbon neutral by 2025, initially are presented as necessary steps we must take to care for our planet. However, underneath these ideas is the same old socialist economics dressed up in green. As former columnist Eric Holthaus revealed when he said: “The world’s top scientists just gave rigorous backing to systematically dismantle capitalism as a key requirement to maintaining civilization and a habitable planet.” This view is a concise statement of eco-socialist attitudes; that their doctrine is the only force that can restrain climate change.
Such concerning views, once held by the radical few, now have the support of major political parties. Labour backed plans for a “green new deal” at their party conference in Brighton this year. This included nationalising all large energy firms, increasing taxes and eliminating net emissions by 2030. The Conservatives have drunk the same Kool-Aid, with the government’s current policy of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 predicted to cost £1 trillion. This would be on top of the costs consumers already have to pay for harmful green taxes levied by the government which British Gas suggested cost households almost £150 a year. With the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying environmental taxes in 2018 have brought over £50 billion to the Treasury, it’s not surprising the establishment have been so quick to jump on the eco-bandwagon.
Yet, in reality it is clear that the solutions to climate change won’t be provided by restrictions, but freedom with capitalism and free markets creating the innovations needed to improve the environment. As we show in our recent Freedom Factbook – which we’re happy to provide to any Extinction Rebellion protestors who want a copy - sulphur emissions have declined across the globe. Here in the UK emissions have fallen by 95% since 1990 and between 1982, and 2016 the area of our planet covered by trees has increased by more than nine times the size of the UK.
These achievements were not made by forcing individuals to radically change their lifestyle by restricting them from eating meat or taking flights abroad. Instead the alterations made have been driven by market forces, with the largest global corporations changing to help the planet.
This has included Starbucks use of green production measures in producing their coffees, alongside partnering with groups such as the Earthwatch Institute to help implement environmental initiatives. Manufacturers have also adapted, with Toyota reducing CO2 emissions in their vehicles by 90% and in their factories to zero.
The action of such corporations should itself be praised but also seen for what it is; the free market in action. Rather than forcing companies to act, we should allow them the economic freedom to respond to public opinion and make the changes. Instead of forcing restrictions on ordinary people, such as the Liberal Democrat policy to ban diesel cars by 2030, we should give companies the freedom to innovate, discovering new ways to keep everyday activities possible while behaving responsibly towards the environment. That is real people power.
The work done by the free market in saving our planet is already being noticed by leading experts. The economists Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger found that “for most indicators, economic growth brings an initial phase of deterioration followed by a subsequent phase of improvement”. Professor Jason Scorse of the Institute of International Studies agrees, saying that “financial markets can adapt and innovate to address today’s climate challenge.”
Rather than turning to government intervention and regulation to tackle climate change, by restricting the access of ordinary people to the things they love and taxing them even more, we should maintain the freedoms which allow companies to be the source of the solution to climate change. If we leap into eco-socialism now, we may undermine our best shot at tackling climate change: eco-capitalism.
So come on Extinction Rebellion – forget the protest, pack up and go and get a Starbucks.