Adam Smith at the COP

Adam Smith at the COP

What can the world learn from Scotland's most famous academic son?

During the 18th Century, the Scottish Enlightenment put Glasgow at the heart of world thinking. This year, as the world comes to Scotland, we ask what we can learn today from one of the great pioneers of the Scottish Enlightenment, the renowned economist and former professor at Glasgow University, Adam Smith.

Our essay series will focalise the climate emergency through the eyes of Adam Smith and take inspiration from the 5 books of the Wealth of Nations:

Essay 1: ‘Of the Causes of Improvement in the productive Powers of Labour’ – Lord Desai

Essay 2: ‘Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock’ – David Pitt-Watson

Essay 3: ‘Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations’ – Usha Rao-Monari

Essay 4: ‘Of Systems of political Economy’ – Sir Anton Muscatelli

Essay 5: ‘Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth’ – Dr Zeti Aziz

This essay series will be combined into a book that will be launched as part of the evening lecture series at the University of Glasgow that will take place 8th – 10th November (details of which can be found below).

An Introduction to the Adam Smith Workstream

100 Days to COP | Adam Smith at the COP | Sam Wheldon-Bayes

Watch GEFI’s Sam Wheldon-Bayes discuss our Adam Smith at the COP workstream with 100 days to go before COP 26 at Glasgow.


Events at COP26 (Glasgow University)

Monday 8th November, Kelvin Gallery, University of Glasgow, 18:00-20:30 – The Accumulation and Employment of Capital: Stewardship in the Climate Era

What responsibility do the owners and managers of capital have to ensure it is used properly? This evening lecture will draw inspiration from Book II of the Wealth of Nations. Chapter update author, investor and former Chair of UNEP FI during COP21 David Pitt-Watson will be joined by Royal London CEO Barry O’Dwyer, as well as other speakers to be confirmed. Together, they will ask what the principle of stewardship means for the owners and managers of capital, and discuss how the issues of climate change and environmental protection change the way we think about capital accumulation, and whether the often-discussed concept of ‘natural capital’ has been properly integrated into business practice and national accounts. 

Tuesday 9th November, Kelvin Gallery, University of Glasgow, 18:00-20:30 – – The Political Economy of Climate Change: Who Pays for Climate Action?

This evening lecture will draw inspiration from Book IV of the Wealth of Nations. Chapter update author, economist and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Anton Muscatelli will be joined by Selwin Hart, Associate Secretary General of the UN (tbc), as well as other speakers to be confirmed. Together, they will connect the political economy of Smith to the negotiations taking place around them. The distribution between groups in society that concerned Smith and his contemporaries and followers might seem removed from the day-to-day operation of the negotiations, but ‘who pays?’ is now the central question underlying any COP. From the development paths available to poorer nations, to any compensation richer nations must offer them to compensate for following low-carbon development paths, to the question of how the carbon transition is financed through loans and grants, to the distribution of rights and responsibilities within countries, political economy is at the heart of climate. 

Wednesday 10th November, Kelvin Gallery, University of Glasgow, 18:00-20:30 – – Performance: The Life and Times of Adam Smith

The final day of our Adam Smith at the COP workstream, and our COP26 programme will see an innovative hybrid lecture-performance on The Life and Times of Adam Smith. We will offer a unique opportunity to hear from world leading experts on the personal and intellectual history of Adam Smith, while seeing key moments from that history brought to life by a group of performers.

Click here to register for our Adam Smith at the COP events

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