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Could a four-day week help save the planet?

Malte Mueller/Getty Images

“The problem with asking people to change their lives to slow climate change is it’s a terrible offer,” says Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. Stop flying, stop driving, stop buying clothes – this isn’t the way to win anyone over. Instead governments should get people to do something they already want to do: cut their working hours. Most workers don’t like their jobs – one global study found that just one in five full-time employees is engaged at work. Many of us feel time-poor. And research has shown that “when societies grow richer, they don’t necessarily grow happier”. In other words, we’re working too much, in jobs we don’t enjoy, for money that isn’t making our lives any better. But if we worked less, we’d consume less – and thus reduce our CO2 emissions.

“A four-day week would be a good start.” This idea has been gaining traction in recent years; it is being piloted in various countries and “is already common in Iceland”. To reduce emissions, you’d need the “nanny state” to push people into low-carbon activities and levy higher taxes on flights to discourage people from “jetting off on long weekends”. And the four-day week “wouldn’t work for everyone” – people in developing countries need all the work they can get. For the rest of us, however, it could be a win-win.