Neoliberalism and Climate Change

Last two weeks of the Summer Peacebuilding Program have been a whirlwind of knowledge, experiences and personal growth. As I continue to figure and process the information that I am fortunately being provided with, I am starting to make connections and links to my area of study, which is Environmental Action. One particularly interesting session held by Dr.William Arocha was based on neoliberalism, market forces and strong property rights, and irrespective of my personal opinions on neoliberalism, I recognize that neoliberalism could be a magic tool in the face of environmental crisis.

In a society that is based on profits and commoditization, nobody protects common shared resources. We live in an economic world that is driven by private and vested interests and therefore, it is but imperative that we see climate change through the lens of global market business. Climate change is the best opportunity for efficient and innovative businesses in the market to grow and develop. It is a booming market for better blueprints, technology, and invention. There is a whole new market open for experimental transformation in the way small and large scale industries run. In the neoliberalist era that is striving to strike a chord between economic development and ecological concern, these new pollution regulated and efficient goods and services will quickly capitulate to great economic success.

Also, in order to please and impress the public with green strategies, companies are focussing on reducing raw material needed for production of goods. Books become e-versions, hard disks become thumb drives, TV boxes become flat screens, etc. There is a massive reduction in the use of material. Technological and market growth extrapolates into less input and more output. Evidently market based approaches can provide solid incentives to the actors involved and new markets to grow and prosper. Thereby giving window for better, improved and efficient ways of tackling the imminent problem of climate change.

The single most benefit that market based approach can provide is that when markets are competitive and price signalling of scarce resources is present, then the markets can exactly determine the price value for these depleting resources. In most cases environmental concerns do not seem a big and imminent issue to the public because they are not quantifiable and the consequences of issues like climate change are not individualized. When one has to pay for the scarce resources, only then will she or he know the value it holds. This can be seen in global carbon markets, when emitters have to pay a certain amount of money corresponding to the emissions that they produced. This is proving to be efficient way of not only controlling emissions but also a way to spread awareness regarding imminent issues of climate change.  This awareness further promotes individual action that extrapolates into community action. For example, when big names in the industry such as Coldplay band indulge in carbon offsets as an individual action, it promotes a whole lot of growth in the carbon trade sector, and with more groups joining, it becomes a community action.  Climate change is opportunity for us to develop more efficient and beneficial products to tackling climate change and also place a value on nature.

Opponents argue that environment has an inherent value that does not involve economic terms of markets and business. In addition, they further state that nature holds dignity and needs to be viewed through value-based outlook. However, it is important to understand and acknowledge that the world we live in is market-based and if this economic structure can provide us a solution to tackling environmental crisis, then I do not see why we shouldn’t invest in these ideas.