June 18 Encyclical from Pope Francis on the Climate Crisis calls for urgent action to stop the destruction of the planet and reverse climate change. His bold statements will likely have ripple effects in the public debate. Where that debate may have its deepest impact is on how climate change will disproportionately affect the poor.
In his encyclical, the Pope states “Reducing our carbon footprint is not just a technical scientific necessity; it has also emerged as the human rights challenge of our time. The most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, heat waves, droughts, rising food prices and the advent of climate refugees – are being visited on the world’s poor”.
The strategies to combat global warming, then, must take into account the plight of the poor. One of the most progressive proposals is the fee and dividend system, an approach favoured by many leading scientists and economists. In contrast to a carbon credits system that allows the continuance of excessive consumption by the wealthy, fee and dividend would place an incremental fee on carbon content of fossil fuels and return all revenue equally to households in the form of a dividend. Since poor and low-income households inherently produce less carbon, they would benefit the most from the dividend.
Fee and dividend is one step towards heeding the Pope’s “cry for the Earth and cry of the poor.”
Dona and Paul Grace-Campbell