India Today - - UPFRONT - —M.G. Arun

How many bil­lion­aires would it take to save the planet? If a hand­ful of the world’s rich­est peo­ple gave away their wealth, would that make a real im­pact on cli­mate change? The ques­tion looks quite far­fetched, es­pe­cially in a global con­text where the United States, un­der the Trump regime, is not quite ex­cited about the whole de­bate around cli­mate change. But as an in­tel­lec­tual ex­er­cise, the Robin Hood in­dex from Bloomberg is worth some bother.

The in­dex cal­cu­lated what slice of each top bil­lion­aire’s for­tune would be needed to buy all the car­bon cred­its required to off­set all do­mes­tic green­house gas emis­sions in their home coun­try over a year. Car­bon cred­its are per­mits that al­low a coun­try or or­gan­i­sa­tion to pro­duce a cer­tain amount of car­bon emis­sions and can be traded if the full al­lowance is not used.

Mukesh Am­bani, chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Re­liance In­dustries, In­dia’s largest com­pany in the pri­vate sec­tor, could use a part of his wealth to buy all the car­bon cred­its required to off­set all do­mes­tic green­house gas emis­sions in the coun­try over a year. He would still have money to spare. Am­bani has a net worth of $34.9 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes. He needs to part with 72 per cent of his wealth to cover all the car­bon cred­its in In­dia.

Bill Gates needs to spend just 43.8 per cent of his wealth to do a sim­i­lar ex­er­cise in the United States. In fact, in most coun­tries, ex­cept China and Brazil, their top busi­ness­man can share a part of his wealth to buy off car­bon cred­its in that coun­try. In Brazil, in­vestor Jorge Paulo Le­mann’s $29 bil­lion comes close to set­tling Brazil’s clean­ing bill while in China, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma would need to dou­ble his $37 bil­lion to off­set the dam­age caused by the world’s big­gest pol­luter.

Car­bon taxes don’t ac­tu­ally elim­i­nate pol­lu­tants, how­ever, by us­ing car­bon trad­ing, coun­tries set an outer limit on emis­sions and can ei­ther give rights to pol­lute or auc­tion off some per­mits within the limit. Com­pa­nies can then buy th­ese cred­its, al­low­ing them to pol­lute, or sell them, making a profit if they clean up.

The United States had pulled out of the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment, which pro­vides guide­lines on pol­lu­tion lev­els, pos­ing new chal­lenges for a global drive to con­trol green­house emis­sions. Can busi­ness­men turn Robin Hoods and come to the earth’s res­cue? In­ter­est­ing thought, but al­to­gether in the realm of fan­tasy.

72 PER CENT of Mukesh Am­bani’s $34.9 bil­lion wealth would cover all the car­bon cred­its in In­dia

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