Campaigners call for global 'carbon levy'

James Murray
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Bill McKibben, Kumi Naidoo and Naomi Klein among 60 campaigners calling for introduction of global levy on fossil fuel extraction

Fresh from hailing the Paris Agreement as an important step towards delivering a low carbon economy, leading environmental campaigners from around the world have today launched a new push for governments to introduce a global levy on fossil fuel extraction.

The call for a "carbon levy" is backed by over 60 campaigners and organisations, including Greenpeace's Kumi Naidoo, Bill McKibben of 350.org, Samantha Smith of WWF), Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, author Naomi Klein, Yeb Sano of the Philippines, and Saleemul Huq of the International Centre for Climate Change & Development in Bangladesh.

"The industry that is most responsible for climate change is the fossil fuel industry - responsible for roughly 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions," the statement reads. "The fossil fuel industry is responsible not only for the majority of carbon emissions but also for the delay in dealing with the problem. They have known about climate change for decades, yet have funded climate denialists and have subverted political processes aimed at fighting the problem. International law - and basic fairness - say that the fossil fuel industry should pay for the loss and damage that their product is causing."

It adds that the group will "work to introduce a global fossil fuel extraction levy (the Carbon Levy) to ensure that the people facing the worst impacts of climate change are compensated by those that caused the problem".

The Paris Agreement retained a section on Loss and Damage relating to climate change impacts, but industrialised countries were adamant that any reference had to be worded in a way that would not leave them liable to compensation claims from countries that experience irreversible losses as a result of climate impacts such as sea level rises.

Julie Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme said the Carbon Levy would be a new focus for climate justice campaigners. "These big oil, coal and gas companies are continuing to reap millions in profit, while the poor are paying with their lives," she said. "While the Paris Agreement sends a strong signal that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground, on the way to that goal, these companies should be paying for the damage they've already caused."

The Paris Agreement did include a section that raises the prospects of greater use of carbon markets and carbon pricing mechanisms, but it stopped short of backing calls for a global carbon pricing system.

Advocates of a "carbon levy" at the point of fossil fuel extraction argue it would be easier to enforce that carbon cap-and-trade schemes that seek to price carbon at the point at which it is emitted.

The launch of the new campaign comes on the same day that over 400 businesses, 120 investors, 150 cities and regions representing 150 million people signed up to the Paris Pledge for Action committing to "concrete actions" to help deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement.

It also follows revelations that some within the coal industry are fearful the Paris Agreement will trigger a period when the sector is "hated and vilified in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified".

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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