Still in Search of the Good Life
At the 2014 G20 held in Brisbane, Australia took the position that climate change is not an economic issue. Most others thought it was – especially the Turkish Prime Minister who is hosting the 2015 G20. It certainly is an economic issue. But, it is not just an economic issue – either in the source or the solution. Resource-intensive, high-carbon, western lifestyles are frequently criticized as unsustainable and deeply unsatisfying. However, these lifestyles are still attractive to the majority of westerners and to a high proportion of the developing world’s middle classes. This chapter argues that the imminent threat of catastrophic climate change constitutes an immediate political, economic and ethical challenge for citizens of the developed world that cannot be tackled by appeals to asceticism, restraint or even a high price on carbon by itself. There can be no solution to climate change until sustainable conceptions of the good life are developed that those in the west want to live and which others might want to live. While the ultimate solution to climate change is the development of low-carbon lifestyles, it is important that government initiatives, governance arrangements and economic incentives support rather than undermine that search. Like the global financial crisis, the ‘global carbon crisis’ demonstrates what happens when weaknesses in national, corporate and professional governance are exacerbated by weaknesses in global governance. In tackling the latter, it is critical the mistakes now evidenced in the former are avoided – including a rethinking of carbon market and carbon tax alternatives. It is also critical that individuals must take responsibility for their actions as consumers, voters and investors.