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Carbon tax is the most efficient to face climate emergency, according to the experts in the UB-Torres Environmental Sessions

Attendants in the sessions.

Attendants in the sessions.

Opening ceremony.

Opening ceremony.

Vice-rector for Equal Opportunities and Social Action of the UB, Maite Vilalta.

Vice-rector for Equal Opportunities and Social Action of the UB, Maite Vilalta.

Torres & Earth Award to Environmental Innovation.

Torres & Earth Award to Environmental Innovation.

06/06/2019

Acadèmic

The experts who gathered on Wednesday, June 5, in the VII Environmental Sessions organized by the University of Barcelona, Familia Torres and the meteorologist and lecturer of the UB Tomàs Molina, agreed on the fact that the carbon tax is an efficient solution, albeit not the only one, to de-carbonize the economy and slow global warming, and they also mentioned such measure should be applied globally and in a coordinated way among all countries to guarantee its success as well as the acceptation by all citizens. They also asked the governments to act immediately, since there are no valid excuses for the current climate emergency situation.

These are the main conclusions of the meeting which took place in the Historical Building of the University of Barcelona under the motto “Are taxes the solution to climate change?”, with twelve national and international experts and about two hundred attendants. The following were in charge of the opening: the minister of Territory and Sustainability of the Catalan Government, Damià Calvet; the president of Familia Torres, Miguel A. Torres, and the vice-rector of Doctoral Studies and Research Promotion of the UB, Francesc Xavier Roigé, who defined climate change as “the biggest challenge in our history”.

Miguel A. Torres noted that “politicians should be aware of the severity of climate change” and criticized that there are more funds for petrol than for renewable energies. “It is a problem for us all and we should do something to de-carbonize the economy”, he concluded.

Damià Calvet defended the carbon tax, despite all its difficulties. “We have to raise funds efficiently to give the correct signs and invest in carbon low energies”, he said. Calvet highlighted the climate emergency declaration launched by the Catalan Government, which shows the Government’s worry on this subject: “This should make us more aware and we should check the predicted instruments more quickly”, he commented.

Maite Vilalta, vice-rector for Equal Opportunities and Social Action of the UB, treated the topic of taxes from an academic perspective, understanding the climate taxes as “mechanisms to punish goods with negative results”. “These are –she said- taxes to correct behaviors, without any raising intention”, but she warned these taxes are hard to manage and governments have other tools to regulate the market.

Jeroen van den Berg, ICREA research professor in ICTA-UAB and professor of Environmental Economics in the University of Amsterdam, noted that governments are distant to apply measures that could affect negatively the companies’ competitiveness. The professor noted that climate emergency will not be solved without a policy that involves all countries and includes carbon taxes. Emilio de las Heras, expert on international funding and author of the blog Cambio Climático y Economia in the newspaper Expansión, noted that “Spain needs an ambitious law on climate taxes”.

Gemma Barricarte, spokesperson for Fridays for Future Barcelona, regretted the lack of action from the governments and citizens when trying to stop the climate disaster. “The continuity of life in the planet as we know it is about to fall”, said, and noted that the reduction of emissions is the only possible way “to guarantee a future”.

David Sawyer, head economist of Clean Growth and Climate Change Institute of Canada , presented the case of Canada with the carbon tax, and highlighted the coordination between the federal government and the provincial governments to set up objectives and policies adapted to the needs of each place. According to Sawyer, the amount of the tax is set up depending of the carbon of fossil fuels. This responsibility, paid by the distributors, has an effect on consumers, but they receive a refund from the Government to pay for their energy bills. The economist noted these measures would be more affordable if implemented globally, alienating costs and reaching a coherent climate regulation.

Journalist Josep Cabayol, chairperson of the roundtable, treated the climate emergency from a human perspective: “According to the WHO, 800,000 people suffer from a premature death due the bad conditions of the air in Europe”, he said, and presented his doubts on the possibility of solving a climate emergency with the current capitalist system. Javier Martin-Vide, professor of Physical Geography of the UB, went through the effects of climate change with real cases, such as the acceleration to nineteen days in the olive tree’s blooming compared to last century’s. Enric Tello, professor of History and Economic Institutions of the UB, focused on the coherence of the message shown by the media and the market: “The message has to be coherent in all its dimensions”, he noted. Aida Vila, head of projects in Integrity (Greenpeace International), commented that a great part of the problem lies in the system, which links happiness to personal and collective growth, and said we “live in a system that tries to disconnect us from the environment”. Vila also remembered citizens have the power to vote for those politicians who are willing to act.

Laura Rahola, head of press in the European Commission Representation in Barcelona, presented the conclusions of the session, in which she stated that “we have the tools and necessary studies for our governments to act, with coordinated actions and a carbon tax involving a refund for citizens, since the change in prices could be a solution to change consuming habits”. According to Rahola, government’s reservations could disappear if the experts show the solution is numerically viable. The meteorologist Albert Barniol, chairperson of the session, concluded the day saying the media has to inform about the problems.

VI Torres & Earth Award to Environmental Innovation

As part of the Environmental Sessions, the VI Torres & Earth Award to Environmental Innovation was held, and was given to the study Potabilització de l’aigua i la gestió de residus de Madina Souane, by the students of Environmental Sciences of the UB David Asensio, Gemma Bargalló Lucia Blanc and Mar Pradell. This award shows and honors projects, experiences and initiatives by students and science groups working on the preservation of the environment. This edition of the contest presented eight projects that were exhibited during the conference and voted for by the attendants and the scientific committee in the Environmental Sessions.

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