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What if we measured the thing that matters most: “carbon productivity”

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, David Peetz, writes in The Conversation (25.10.19) that labour productivity doesn’t matter as much as emissions productivity, since workers ‘aren’t a particularly finite resource’.

‘Ask any economist a question, and you will usually get the answer: “productivity”.

‘The winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman, set the standard in 1994: Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.

‘The new head of Australia’s treasury, Steven Kennedy, said much the same thing this week: The most important long-term contribution to wage growth is labour productivity.

‘For my money, they could say the same about “carbon productivity”, an idea that is going to matter to us more.

‘Labour productivity is notoriously hard to measure; measuring changes in it is harder still. It’s relatively easy to measure in the jobs we are doing less of these days, such as making washing machines; harder to measure in the jobs we are doing more of, such as caring for people.

‘And it’s less important than you might think. People aren’t a particularly finite resource. Allowable carbon emissions are.’

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