The Environmental Economist with a Penchant for Justice

New Robert Bosch Junior Professor Linus Mattauch wants to explore how climate protection can be made into an economically attractive prospect around the world, without creating any new injustices.

Eva Wolfangel | December 2020

When Linus Mattauch and four colleagues set off on a mountain hike, one joked: “Now five environmental economists are going to look at melting glaciers.” Mattauch has been working for years on the question of how climate protection can be implemented socially and economically. Back then on the mountain path, he already knew his professional path. After studying math and philosophy at Oxford, Mattauch earned a PhD in economics in Berlin, spurred on by the issue of environmental protection and the opportunity to contribute to social change.

From Oxford to Berlin

Today, the environmental economist is a lecturer at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford and Deputy Director of the Economics of Sustainability Program at the Oxford Martin School. But not for much longer. Mattauch is returning to Germany in early 2021 as a Robert Bosch Junior Professor. “The funding means that I’ll be able to set up my own research group,” he says. He has a lot to do, after all. His research project “How inequality and identity affect global climate solutions – and what economics can do about it,” which he is carrying out at the Technical University of Berlin, aims to clarify how climate change can be stopped without creating any new injustices.

I used to ask myself why nothing was happening. Surely it’s all clear?

“There are always losers when a social change takes place,” he says. “In this case, they are very influential.” This isn’t just about lobbying, but about the costs of climate protection – for example, in terms of industrial jobs. The issue gets complicated as soon as a person’s livelihood or the economic power of a region comes to depend on the change. “I used to ask myself why nothing was happening. Surely it’s all clear?” says Mattauch. But now that he is a philosopher and economist he has a better understanding of the challenges. That’s why his mission is to lay the foundation for making environmental protection an economically attractive prospect – worldwide and for everyone.

Who lives more harmful to the climate – poor or rich?

Simply raising carbon prices is not everything. “That will have an even greater impact on the poor – in Germany at least,” says Mattauch. “In relative terms, poorer people consume more CO2 per dollar. This doesn’t mean that these people produce more greenhouse emissions. Quite the opposite. It is the rich who produce higher CO2 emissions. But the rich also spend money on things that are less environmentally damaging, such as culture or organic products.

Far less is understood about comparable relationships in emerging markets. Who would be affected by pollution taxes in countries like these? Mattauch is certain that climate protection and economic growth can also be reconciled in emerging markets. “It completely depends on how the actual economic policy is shaped and developed.” Over the next five years, the new Robert Bosch Junior Professor will be examining just what this might look like.