Critical theme: tackling inequality and unsustainable consumption
An IIED seminar looked at ways to encourage the world's richest to reduce their environmental impact.
On 20 April IIED hosted a discussion meeting to look at how to develop policies that could reduce inequality and lessen the impact of over-consumption on the environment.
Recent research by Oxfam and French economists Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel (PDF) indicates the richest one per cent of people in many countries have huge per capita carbon footprints compared to the rest of the population.
IIED brought together stakeholders from NGOs, think tanks and academia to discuss the difficulties of getting the richest people to reduce their negative impact on the environment.
IIED researcher Essam Yassin Mohammed introduced the keynote speaker, independent researcher Dario Kenner. Kenner set up the Why Green Economy? website to provide a platform to share ideas on a new economic model to tackle climate change and protect the environment.
Kenner's presentation reviewed the data on the differences in per capita levels of carbon emicssions between the wealthiest citizens and the poorest in G20 countries.
He focused on a number of key questions:
- How can policies designed to reduce inequality factor in environmental impact?
- How could governments use additional revenue from taxing the richest to reduce carbon footprints across society?
- How can redistribution be implemented to ensure it does not lead to people purchasing more carbon intensive goods and services?
Kenner suggested outlined possible measures to target consumption by the richest members of society, including frequent flier levies, taxes on luxury goods and the creation of 'personal carbon budgets'. He suggested that additional tax revenues gained could be used to fund renewables or adaptation measures.
After the event, Kenner wrote a blog on defining the research agenda on inequality and unsustainable consumption, highlighting the reactions and questions prompted by his presentation.
We published Kenner's presentation via Storify - or you can see it below:
About the speaker
Dario Kenner is an independent researcher whose current research focuses on the links between inequality and the environment. He launched whygreeneconomy.org in 2013. Kenner has extensive experience of working on the environment and international development, including lobbying at UN climate change conferences and Rio+20. He is a visiting fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.
To find out more about the issues discussed at the meeting, the organisers suggest the following:
- Reducing inequality and carbon footprints, an article by Kenner, February 2016
- Are some people consuming too much?, a blog by Katherine Trebeck, Oxfam, 2015
- Climate crisis? We can't solve it without tackling inequality too, an article by Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth, 2015
- Extreme Carbon Inequality, a report by Oxfam, 2015
- The inequality of over-consumption: the ecological footprint of the richest, a summary of a working paper by Kenner, 2015
- Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris (PDF), report by Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel, 2015
About the Critical Theme series
IIED set up the 'Critical Theme' discussion series to explore new ideas and to broaden the knowledge of its staff and partners.
The seminars cover a wide range of speakers and topics. Recent events have looked at 'Gender and environmental change', 'Pollution, politics and social media in China', and the 'Links between climate change and food security'.
Other events have focused on the governance of Marine Protected Areas, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) and its work on reducing urban poverty, and the importance of meaningful stakeholder reporting.