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Social justice, at the heart of sobriety in the face of the climate emergency – Economic Policy

Sobriety, highlighted recently in the fight against climate change, is seen as a chance for some, a foil for others. For it to be implemented, it must be based on social justice, according to experts.

The notion of sobriety dates back to Greek civilization but it has disappeared from everyday language,” Yamina Saheb, economist and one of the main authors of the latest report from the IPCC, the UN climate experts, told AFP.

For the first time, they defined sobriety, or “sufficiency” in English, their working language, and underlined its key role in the fight against global warming.

“Sobriety policies are daily measures and practices that avoid demand for energy, materials, land, and water while providing well-being for all humans within planetary boundaries,” the summary for policymakers reads.

It is about offering “a better quality of life for all, while protecting our environment”, summarizes David Ness, associate professor at the University of South Australia, who did not contribute to the report.

Returning to the Western world, particularly under the pen of a German researcher, Wolfgang Sachs, the term “sobriety” has found an echo in France with the Negawatt association, until it was recently used by President Emmanuel Macron. It also underlies many scenarios for achieving carbon neutrality.

Without excess

However, the concept is far from universal: “there is absolutely no discussion about reducing consumption or sobriety” in Australia, notes David Ness.

“It’s a rather embryonic concept in Brazil,” remarks Carolina Grottera, professor at the Federal University Fluminense.

Finding a definition accepted by all IPCC member states was not easy, recognizes Yamina Saheb. “Sobriety is not the stone age. It is modern comfort, but without excess. Those who might suffer from sobriety are those who overconsume. For these people it would be a constraint, but for the ordinary citizen, it is a more peaceful way of life”.

“We are not all on an equal footing when it comes to sobriety”, analyzes Eloi Laurent, economist at the French Observatory of Economic Conditions (OFCE).

“The 10% of the richest inhabitants of the planet emit nearly half of the greenhouse gases”, notes the economist. Therefore, “we must start by tackling the most luxurious behaviors”, he continues.

Exemplary

The question of social justice is acute in developing countries, notes the Brazilian Carolina Grottera. “There is the idea that rich countries are historically responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions and demand, when people in poor countries have not, on average, achieved a standard of living decent. It would therefore be up to the countries of the North to change their way of life”.

“In the absence of distinction between luxury and need, growing consumption exacerbates inequalities, which creates a vicious circle of even greater consumption”, she analyzes, taking as an example people without health coverage. or savings, but who yearn for cell phones or big cars.

To change these behaviors, “we need a new narrative”, judge David Ness. “I noticed that environmentalists do not make people dream, they are often seen as pessimistic people, killjoys”, notes Cyril Cassagnaud, student.

You have to show that it works, that you can have a good career by being green and by applying sobriety“, estimates the young man of 26 years, who intends to work in the local public service after having studied engineering and political science. He wants to “put what (he has) learned at the service of the public interest” rather than in a career synonymous with big pay.

Another bias involves public policies. For Eloi Laurent, “the taxation of the most luxurious behaviors must allow the financing of more sober equipment for the underprivileged classes”.

The question of setting an example is also essential, according to him. “When we proclaim + make the planet great again + and nothing or very little follows in action, we are in the register of hypocrisy and it is poison for the ecological transition”, he warns, paraphrasing Emmanuel Macron.

“The notion of sobriety goes back to Greek civilization but it has disappeared from everyday language,” Yamina Saheb, an economist and one of the main authors of the latest IPCC report, told AFP, the UN climate experts. for the first time defined sobriety, or “sufficiency” in English, their working language, and highlighted its key role in the fight against global warming.”Sobriety policies are everyday measures and practices that avoid energy demand, materials, land and water while providing well-being for all humans within planetary boundaries,” the summary for policymakers reads. It is about providing “a better quality of life for all, while protecting our environment” , sums up David Ness, associate professor at the University of South Australia, who did not contribute to the report. found an echo in France with the ace Negawatt society, until recently used by President Emmanuel Macron. It also underlies many scenarios for achieving carbon neutrality. However, the concept is far from universal: “there is absolutely no discussion about reducing consumption or sobriety” in Australia, notes David Ness. “It’s a rather embryonic concept in Brazil”, remarks for her part Carolina Grottera, professor at the Federal University Fluminense. Finding a definition accepted by all the member states of the IPCC was not easy, recognizes d elsewhere Yamina Saheb. “Sobriety is not the Stone Age. It is modern comfort, but without excess. Those who could suffer from sobriety are those who overconsume. For these people it would be a constraint, but for the citizen ordinary, it’s a more peaceful way of life. 10% of the richest inhabitants of the planet emit nearly half of the greenhouse gases”, notes the economist. Therefore, “we must start by attacking the most luxurious behaviors”, he continues. The question of social justice is acute in developing countries, notes the Brazilian Carolina Grottera. “There is the idea that rich countries are historically responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions and demand, when people in poor countries have not, on average, achieved a standard of living It would therefore be up to the countries of the North to change their way of life.” “In the absence of distinction between luxury and need, growing consumption exacerbates inequalities, which creates a vicious circle of even greater consumption” , she analyzes, taking as an example people without health coverage or savings, but who aspire to have cell phones or big cars. To change these behaviors, “we need a new narrative” , judge David Ness. “I noticed that environmentalists do not make people dream, they are often seen as pessimistic people, killjoys”, notes Cyril Cassagnaud, student. “You have to show that it works, that you can have a great career in being green and applying sobriety”, estimates the young man of 26 years, who intends to work in the local public service after having studied engineering and political science. He wants to “put what (he has) learned at the service of the public interest” rather than in a career synonymous with big pay. Another bias involves public policy. For Eloi Laurent, “the taxation of the most luxurious behaviors must allow the financing of more sober equipment for the underprivileged classes”. The question of exemplarity is also essential, according to him. “When we proclaim + make the planet great again + and nothing or very little follows in action, we are in the register of hypocrisy and it is poison for the ecological transition”, he warns, paraphrasing Emmanuel Macron.

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