letter from economists

Carlos Zilio, HCE MARCO, 1970, felt-tip pen on paper, 22x30


To rebuild our world, we need to end the carbon economy. Ela amplifies racial, social and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future.

From deeply rooted racism to the Covid-19 pandemic, from extreme inequality to ecological collapse, our world faces dire and interconnected emergencies. But as much as the present moment painfully highlights the weaknesses of our economic system, it also offers us the rare opportunity to reimagine it. As we seek to rebuild our world, we can and must end the carbon economy.

Even with climate meltdown looming, the pressure to return to the old carbon economy is real – and even more dangerous given the fundamental instability of an economy rooted in injustice. Sources of large-scale human suffering, such as crop failures, water crises, rising sea levels, wildfires, severe weather, forced migration and pandemics, go hand in hand with a warming world. Exposure to air pollution, for example, increases the risk of complications from diseases such as Covid-19, and deforestation and rising temperatures increase the likelihood of new infectious diseases emerging. When such consequences manifest themselves, it is no accident that they disproportionately affect communities of color, low-income communities, the most vulnerable nations and peoples, and other historically marginalized groups.

It is black people in America, for example, who have to endure some of the highest rates of exposure to polluted air. The carbon economy amplifies and generates racial, social and economic inequalities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future. If we fail to act now, the present moment can only be a mere preview of what is to come, as we are forced into ever more painful situations and trade-offs. Furthermore, it is naive to imagine that we can simply touch the fossil fuel industry – an industry that has lied about climate change for decades, that has actively opposed serious climate solutions, and that continues to plan for a future dependent on fossil fuels – by good behavior.

Instead, we must recognize that the present moment creates an opportunity to build a better future for ourselves and our children. By tackling the carbon economy, we can begin to chart a path towards economic recovery while building a more just and sustainable world.

Governments must actively phase out the fossil fuel industry.

Bailouts and subsidies to major oil, gas and coal companies only delay the essential energy transition, distorting markets while locking us into a future we cannot sustain. Instead, coordinated action to phase out the exploration and extraction of carbon resources allows governments to reallocate funds to sustainable technology, infrastructure, social programs and good jobs, spurring an economic transition that benefits people and the planet.

Financial power institutions must stop funding and investing in fossil fuels.

When our biggest banks, our most influential investors and our most prestigious universities bet on the success of the fossil fuel industry, they provide the economic and social capital necessary to maintain the dangerous status quo. Instead, these institutions must withdraw their investments in fossil fuel companies and cut their funding while reinvesting those resources in a fair and stable future.

People must build political power to advocate for a fairer economic system

If we attempt a reconstruction of the economy whose guiding principles are a return to 'business as usual', we will simply substitute one crisis for another. Instead, we must recognize that when a crisis hits, disaster amplifies along society's fault lines, and that when we fail to prepare for disasters, the costs of inaction fall hardest on the most vulnerable. A green recovery can and should uplift those who need it most, at home and around the world, creating a more resilient and regenerative society in the process.

By achieving a large-scale economic transformation that dismantles the carbon economy and brings about a more sustainable world, we have an opportunity to begin the process of economic recovery while working to undo the injustices at the heart of our modern system. As economic experts, the undersigned, we call on our policy makers to recognize the role that meaningful climate action plays in rebuilding our world – to recognize that a healthy economy and society requires a healthy planet.

That letter was signed by more than 100 economists. View the list of all signatories here.

Translation: Daniel Pavan

Originally published in the newspaper The guardian.

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