Climate Change Economics | Partha Dasgupta: “We have to lower our standard of living a little for the good of the Earth”

Climate Change Economics |  Partha Dasgupta: “We have to lower our standard of living a little for the good of the Earth”

Society is in debt Sir Partha Dasgupta (Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1942) has developed an economic corpus around the weights to chart the development of ecosystems. His work Biodiversity EconomyRoadmap to 2021, commissioned by the British Government It is urgent to try to save the earth. Time is running out to achieve this, the Nobel economics candidate, recipient of the BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Award, admits his pessimism.

Most of the 80% of the world’s large ecosystems that you define are found in countries of dubious or democratic credibility, which are either affected or have rulers who don’t care about this natural wealth. Are you worried?

One solution would be to pay to protect these countries’ natural capital. In some it already happens. The government subsidizes the farmers to maintain the land. For example, a downstream resident pays an upstream resident. It has property rights that we take advantage of, but we want to protect the ecosystem around it and prevent it from being destroyed.

Who will control the administration’s proper use of these aids?

Those living below must control this administration. If Brazil doesn’t want to destroy the Amazon rainforest, the rest of the world will have to pay Brazil. Amazon is a public entity. We all benefit from great forests. These forests will become the capital of humanity.

And for them the UN Wages through, is a special fund created?

Yes definitely. I have proposed the creation of an international body with the authority to monitor the use of the oceans. Goods worth billions of euros have traveled by sea and paid nothing. The oceans belong to everyone. If all these ships were forced to be chartered, the revenue could be used to pay to countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Congo, etc. to stop deforestation.

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In 2021, are you more optimistic today than when you wrote the book The Economy of Diversity commissioned by the British Government?

No harm was done to the British Government. But it has had an impact in some areas because it shows what traditional economic discourse tends to forget. It’s not just about climate, my argument goes further: it’s about the treatment and value of natural resources.

Aren’t the fight against climate change and resource conservation two sides of the same coin?

Yes, that is why they cannot be singled out. That would be dangerous.

The regeneration of western cities like Bilbao, where we are now, shows that few projects in the west have been done very well.

But how was it done? Controls such as prices applied through financial regulation are essential. In short, having a good government which we don’t have globally. Yes, especially after World War II, we are good at consolidating problems. For example, air traffic control or wave systems. It is amazing how they are managed. Where we are at a disadvantage is at the level of competition for the use of resources.

Do we value economic growth differently?

The term GDP (and per capita) will continue to carry extraordinary weight because of competition between countries. It is the currency for negotiating with other countries. See how China used it. It has a political effect and affects investments in other countries, especially in the control of natural resources. It is a race to mutual destruction.

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This is not good news.

The policy is wrong. This GDP does not take into account the extraction of natural capital. Only a fraction of the wealth created is analysed. The consequences of destruction are not assessed.

And what can we as citizens do to help?

We need incentives to change our spending habits, and prices are the only thing I can think of. The more things supermarkets have, the cheaper they are. It sounds terrible, but it’s true. That is why so much food is wasted. Products should be expensive. Natural capital has to pay more. Sometimes we do when there is a rush. An example: at the entrance to large cities. Or create a specific fare if there is a tourist rush.

Raise prices to encourage or change behavior…

Consumers are not isolated. We follow fashions. Look at how most people dress. Thinking about how to achieve a coherent movement from certain consumption habits to others is a difficult matter. How to stop eating beef? Or go from wearing skinny pants to a wide waist? We follow each other, but we cannot predict it. How can this effect be achieved in the use of natural resources? Is this a generational issue? My family has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. It can be used academically or even by celebrities. Can we think about how Taylor Swift doesn’t buy more than one pair of pants every two years (laughs)? In the end, I can only think about the utility of the price.

There are reports that estimate the world population to be around 10 billion. How do you estimate population growth?

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It is favorable to stabilize. People will live longer and the retirement age should be delayed depending on life expectancy. I still work on myself. If we have to give up some things in our standard of living to keep the overall demand on nature low, we have to do it for the planet. We demand more than the planet can give us. At the end of the day we want to reduce human pressure on the biosphere.

If you had to choose what worries you most about the future…

We must be aware of what we are doing. And we don’t pay for many of the things we use.


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