DebateClimate protection: the uber argument for neoliberalism?

Climate protection: the uber argument for neoliberalism?

Reading time: 2:15 min | The necessity of comprehensive climate protection has largely arrived at all of Europe’s popular parties and is part of their storytelling. Only parties on the right’s fringe still doubt the climate emergency. One might think that the issues arising from the climate emergency will put the brakes on the typical agenda of the well-off and economic liberals, at least for a while. That would be a dangerous underestimation.

Why should the wealthy and their minions (all those old and young people who believe in careers and consumption) want to give up their sinecures and religion just because floods and drought are imminent?

Economic-liberal circles will see climate protection as an opportunity to undermine, if not get rid of, the unloved welfare state. The thesis that the climate emergency can only be overcome if money from the social budget is taken for climate protection is the elephant in the room. This must be resisted early on if one cares about social justice and diverse society. Climate protection and social security are not connected, even though economic-liberal circles want to create the impression by saying we have to tighten our belts.

The over 600 billion euros of the German federal annual social budget are what they are: a social budget, and not a climate protection budget. Just as the approx. 140 billion euros of the German yearly education budget is an education budget (no one sane would close schools to fight the climate emergency). Likewise, the approx. 45 billion euros that pour into the Bundeswehr cannot be diverted to combat the climate emergency (even though both are defence). What’s more, there are many tens of billions of euros in state money for transport, the economy, pensions, etc….. and, finally, for culture. Why don’t we pitch climate protection against culture? Let’s drop culture altogether.

But it often makes sense to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and unproductive costs. Ending excesses and streamlining structures should be a daily process in politics. However, sectors of society that are not causal for the climate emergency, such as the welfare state, education, or culture, shouldn’t be budgetarily affected just because we are in a climate emergency. Nor are health care or police, and other security agencies causal for climate change and thus shouldn’t take massive hits in their budget.

But other issues, such as the urgently needed agricultural and food reform or transport, are causally related to climate protection. The same applies to the energy sector. This is where we have to start. But the economic liberals are reluctant for reforms in these sectors because that is the revenue side, which should continue to provide for their dividends as long as possible.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to think about how the expenditure side can be optimised. For example, the question arises whether the many billions that sink into Europe’s agriculture as subsidies also support climate protection in a targeted way. So far, they do the opposite.

The money needed for investments in climate protection must, of course, come from somewhere. For example, through reform of income, capital, and wealth taxes because the carbon footprint of wealthy people is on average many times higher than that of ordinary earners. This group should be particularly targeted from a perspective of climate and social justice because wealth and climate protection are causally linked; splashing cash impacts the climate. Or, to put it simply: the strong shoulders have to bear more in times of need. Unfortunately, economic liberals see it differently (I suspect a character deficit) and want to have the cake and eat it too.

A welfare state debate in the context of climate protection is a stellar smokescreen. Please don’t fall for it.