Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

25 Nov 2019

The price of sustainability

Posted by Michael Keating

How badly do we want sustainability? If we go by a number of surveys, not enough to voluntarily pay for the changes needed. In an online article by Sally Ho of the Green Queen website in Hong Kong, “sustainability all comes down to unit economics. When we make one eco-friendly decision over a less planet-friendly option, our individual motivation seems to stem from price, rather than moral persuasions.” These findings align with studies  in Canada. An Ipsos poll in September, on how much more Canadian are willing to pay to fight climate change found 46 per cent did not want to spend any additional money in the form of taxes or higher prices. Just 22 per cent said they would be willing to pay up to $100 extra per year. Ms. Ho writes that the flip side is that if prices do go up – for example for energy – we will use less. She references a 2018 University of Chicago study, of 691 households in Kyoto, Japan, which showed higher prices encouraged people to conserve energy much more than moral reasons. In Canada and a number of other jurisdictions carbon pricing is being used to discourage people from burning as much fossil fuel. In its final report, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, a group of economic, business and political experts, calls for the price on carbon to keep rising. In terms of strategies to meet greenhouse gases reduction goals, “carbon pricing (with rebates or tax cuts) tops the list. It delivers the lowest cost emissions reductions. The second option is well-designed, flexible regulations, which can perform almost as well as carbon pricing.”

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