Retirement savings and tax: Why are we disincentivising green alternatives?

In an earlier post I noted that a partial solution to the climate crisis is large scale investments in capital-intensive green energy projects, particularly in developing countries. This provides an opportunity for middle-aged savers in high income countries, so long as their savings are productively invested.

This is where New Zealand has an issue. 

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Finance and greenhouse gas emissions

The world faces three particularly awkward economic issues over the next fifty years:  how global living standards can be maintained with lower greenhouse gas emissions; how poor people in countries that still have high population growth rates can be brought out of poverty; and how the impact of population ageing in higher income nations can be managed.

In this post I will discuss how the solution to these three issues can be linked. In a follow up I’ll use the example of New Zealand to show how policy settings may be making the third issue worse than it needs to be.

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Why devotees of Greta need to give her up to save the planet.

From time to time an unlikely person captures the moment and changes history. Joan of Arc. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Bob Geldof. Jesus of Nazareth. Greta Thunberg. Magic occurs and suddenly something that had been there for an age is seen in a different light. A movement is catalysed.

What is strange about these episodes is that nothing fundamentally changes other than awareness of an existing issue. This, of course, is a fundamental change. Where thousands were blind they now see. Slavery, starvation, or global warming suddenly become the issue of the day and the world changes.

But is awareness, and the noise surrounding it, the right change to save the planet?

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“Sustainability” and flavours of Green parties

There is an excellent post about the Green party, and considering how to frame itself over here – I recommend reading it.  Within the post, a lot was made about the term “sustainability” and the inappropriate nature of the “left-right” divide.

However, there is something I’d like to add. Read more

Top 10 on Global Warming

So Interest.co.nz allowed me to pop up another one of these “Top 10” links things – where I blatantly use more than ten links to make some arbitrary point about some arbitrary subject.  This time, global warming – go over and give it a look.

However, there are a few links that I missed.

An excellent post by Eric Crampton from 2010, considering NZ policy choices.  I hear he is doing the next Top 10, so it will be interesting to see if he expands on this!  He discusses the idea of what policy we should put in place, given the fact that the lack of an international agreement removes the “externality” argument from play.  Ideas such as investment in technology (risky, with high potential reward, strategy) and investment in adaption and insurance become much more important here – it is an honest conversation we need to have!

Also, the links in this tweet:

Our views, and expectations of, global coordination are an essential part of what is “right” policy here.  Let’s try to be honest about that.  Yes, we can decry the impact on future generations, and we can do things to signal our concern (that is why I support a tax, even though it does nothing to the chance of a GWE).  But these issues are too important to only be controlled by the tyranny of ‘good intentions’, without considering what the actual future impact will be – if we actually believe that global coordination is fraught, we instead need to think about ways to coordination nationally to insure against/limit the impact where appropriate.  Ranting instead will just see us sacrificing future generations of New Zealander’s to make ourselves sound “moral” now 😉

Greens carbon tax

I see that the Greens have announced a carbon tax to replace the emissions trading scheme (with details and analysis by BERL here).  The authors of TVHE have long been a fan of  this type of switch when discussing the issue (eg here and here).  And the idea of pricing an externality and using it to lower other tax burdens is a good one.  Note:  John Small also discusses here, with specific discussion about dairy.  Aaron Schiff discusses here.

So it should be unsurprising that I broadly agree with the aim Green party policy here, and this should be kept in mind while reading my post.

However, TVHE isn’t about saying what policies I think are good or bad – it is about considering trade-offs and thinking about the details of policy when we can.  In that context, there are a few points I must raise.

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