By Defne Gönenç
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
Global economic policies and environmental politics are strongly intertwined. To develop a solid understanding of environmental problems and evaluate proposed solutions, it is necessary to establish their connections with the broader global political economy in which they are situated. So, what does the current global political economic framework look like? Are public enterprises unproductive? Are environmental rights of any use? What type of a regime do we need to combat climate change? What are the most interesting renewable energy sources? What is the place of animals in the environmental justice paradigm? How has Germany become one of the leading countries for the renewable energy transition?
In Something Like Environmental and Economic Policy, my father Mete Gönenç and I have provided some answers to these and many more thought-provoking questions in a series of articles on different sub-topics of environmental and political economy.
For example, in the first part of the book Something Like Political Economy, the chapter “Are public companies inefficient?” Mete Gönenç analyzes the extent to which private companies in Turkey are productive compared to the public ones. Today, in nearly all economics textbooks, state intervention is seen as a harmful interference to the economy. Similarly, privatization is still recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank along with austerity policies. As such, in Turkey, after assuming power in 2002, the Justice and Development Party-led government implemented the economic program established by the previous government based on the recommendations of the IMF and World Bank. Consequently, privatization of around 125 large state enterprises took place. First, these companies, which were initially founded with the help of substantial public investment, were sold at prices which were significantly below their “real” values. Second, and contrary to expectations, after this large-scale privatization process these companies did not necessarily become more productive. While before their privatization the companies used to be tax champions and provided tax revenue to the state, following their privatization the situation was overturned. The main reason behind the decline in productivity was their diminishing labour force and greater demands placed on workers by the companies with the aim of increasing profits. While these companies had the infrastructure necessary to undertake most of their production processes on their own, subcontractor companies were hired, leading to dismissal of more staff. In addition, a marked fall in the service quality of these newly-privatized companies has occurred. Today, the customer service of these companies is defined by lengthy phone calls which are not free of charge. These developments are of concern to citizens, who should take a more active role in tracking the productivity and service quality of these privatized companies.
In the second part of the book, Something Like Environmental Politics, in the article titled “Climate change is forcing the limits of global justice” I examine how climate change both fosters global injustices, and in return, is fostered by them. For several decades, we have discussed the climate change issue through the lens of developmental inequalities among countries. Nevertheless, global production and consumption systems create a more complicated picture. Climate change is an issue that should be handled together with consumption and production systems. Accordingly, when discussing the spread of emission sources worldwide, the fact that multinational companies are undertaking their production in emerging economies like China to benefit from their relatively looser environmental and labor standards while the consumption of these products occurs in other geographies should never be left out. Hence, it is not possible to solve the climate change problem through technological advances alone. For an earnest and comprehensive battle against climate change, we should consider climate change in all of its aspects, ranging from its historical and intergenerational features, to its links to injustices between and within countries.
In short, Something Like Environmental and Economic Policy discusses several imperative questions which lie at the heart of political economy and environmental policy. Most environmental degradation is intertwined with economic policies and global economic structures. For instance, climate change is embedded in global injustices which are fostered by neoliberal policies which promote privatization, monetarization and deregulation. Hence, changes in global economic policies and environmental degradation as well as the proposed solutions should be evaluated together.
One Reply to “Something Like Environmental and Economic Policy”
Environmental policy and economic policy are certainly intertwined. It takes a sharp mind to put both in perspective and decide the right incentives. Great to see this concept captured with examples in a book.