Anton Savage: Are we willing to spend a bit extra to save the planet? Of course we’re not

We’re still not willing to part with an extra cent to help the environment, a fact that policymakers will have to get their heads around.

5th Jul 2024
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Originally published in the Business Post.

The environment is tremendously important and we feel we really must do something to save it - as long as it doesn’t involve paying one extra cent. The public desire to help the environment is very broad, but about as deep as a teaspoon. Business after business is finding out that talk is cheap, and pro-environmental talk is the cheapest of all.

Several large car rental companies entered this decade committing hard to electric vehicles, full sure that customers would demand environmentally friendly vehicles and might even go so far as to pay a premium for them. They were wrong, and most of them have quietly tip-toed away from their initial EV enthusiasm.

What they discovered was that other than an early flurry of people renting electric vehicles as a way to test-drive potential purchases, precious few customers would pay extra to support the environment. Worse still, few customers were willing to put up with the hassle of dealing with unfamiliar charging networks or a range which was less than unlimited even if the EV came at no cost over the petroleum-guzzler.

Likewise, many airlines moved to offer what the market ostensibly desired - emissions-based ticketing, where you could purchase flights according to their carbon footprint. A number of US carriers restructured their websites so you could filter results by journey duration, number of stops, price and carbon emissions. Guess which one nobody uses to pick their flights? You got it, the only one that matters to the planet.

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