Carbon pricing and the exit from fossil fuels

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Adam Tooze argues the European Green Deal and young Europeans’ activism are fostering a virtuous circle favouring more rapid decarbonisation.

In the 1980s the dawning of global awareness of the climate problem coincided with the politics of the market revolution, also known as neoliberalism. Naomi Klein has described this conjuncture as a tragic coincidence. Environmental policy was steered towards limited, market-based solutions, above all centring on schemes for emissions trading. To turn the giant oil tanker of the modern economy in a new direction we would rely on the price mechanism.

Thirty years on, as the pace of the climate crisis accelerates, the self-confident assumptions of policy discourse framed in the 1980s and 90s have collapsed. Rather than imagining ourselves as captains of a giant ship, as Jörg Haas of the German Greens’ Heinrich Böll Stiftung has argued, our situation today is more like that of a rally driver hurtling towards a corner, desperately trying to point the car in the right direction. We should be pumping the gas, hitting the brakes and pivoting the steering wheel all at once.

If 2008 and its aftermath had not already taught us, after Covid-19 we know for sure that when the status quo is put seriously in question the actual motto of modern government is: ‘whatever it takes’. And, faced with the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, we must demand a no-less-radical approach.

Read the full essay at Social Europe

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