The privilege of being born already

We are deeply privileged to have been born already and we need to check this privilege. Intergenerational equity or inteq is the principle that future generations inherit the Earth in the same state or better than what we received it in so being able to utilise the environments services for the same benefits we use constantly. This is deeply connected to sustainability and challenges the societal norm of overconsumption and ignoring our limited resources.

“We have a plan B but no planet B.”



With my working group and other supporters, I took part in an action about respecting those who have not been born yet and do not get a chance to speak at the conference. We placed tape over our mouths, and held signs with “Intergenerational Equity” and “Don’t discount our future”. The concept of inteq I believe is not very contentious, yet extremely powerful to explicitly include in the preamble to the convention which is a major objective of the inteq working group here at COP.

You would think this concept is obvious in the negotiations but it is only implicitly included and by including it explicitly, this gives principle to correcting some of the methods which are causing a distorted preference for the present rather than the future. One way inequity is embedded in policy and economics is the practice of discount rates used by economists. The discount rate is the method of giving a value of a future cost, a present value so a cost-benefit analysis can compare costs and benefits occurring at a different time. Due to the neoclassical economical belief that economic growth will be always be possible, the future costs are lower than the present.

The discount rates are distorting the effects of climate change and giving incentive for a lack of ambition. The costs and benefits of climate change don’t happen simultaneously, for example using petrol now provides a benefit immediately but a cost to the environment later on, thus giving greater weight to the benefit. Therefore discount rates lowers the cost of expected future climate change impacts and decreases the ambition of mitigation through emissions targets. Climate change without ambitious mitigation will result in big costs to national GDP so through incorporating intergenerational equity and lowering discount rates, this can rebalance the likely costs of climate change and encourage early mitigation which will then lower the costs incurred in the future thus having benefits all round.  

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