UN panel calls for higher carbon taxes on air, sea transport
A top UN panel on Friday called for increased taxes on carbon emissions and air and sea transport to raise 100 billion dollars a year for poor nations to combat climate change.
The group led by the prime ministers of Norway and Ethiopia also proposed a tax on international financial transactions for a UN fund aiming to be ready by 2020.
The panel — which also included finance ministers and financier George Soros — was set up at last year’s acrimonious Copenhagen climate summit and its proposals will get a first international airing at the UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico starting at the end of the month.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the proposals “financially feasible and politically viable.” Environment pressure groups said governments are duty-bound to follow the proposals.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia said there carbon emission taxes must be used as a deterrent to producing the gases blamed for global warming and to raise revenue.
They proposed that carbon dioxide emissions should cost between 20 and 25 dollars a tonne. This, along with auctions of carbon emission allowances and new carbon taxes, could raise up to 30 billion dollars a year, they said.
The bulk of carbon emissions currently cost between 10 and 20 dollars, according to experts.
The group is also looking to raise 10 billion dollars a year from taxes on international transport, 10 billion dollars by switching subsidies from fossil fuels, 10 billion dollars from private capital flows linked to carbon trading and tens of billions of dollars from international financial institutions.
Stoltenberg said the International Maritime Organization was already working on a system to tax the carbon emissions of shipping. And he highlighted a system to be introduced by European nations in 2013 which will tax carbon emissions for air travel within Europe.
Jet fuel or passenger tickets could be taxed to raise money for the fund, they said.
“This is more realistic than many people believe,” Stoltenberg said of the transport tax. “We need the political will to take the decisions and that is up to the governments.”
The group also proposed a tax on financial transactions but admitted in their report: “diverging views will make it difficult to implement this universally.” The United States has led nations opposed to a new financial tax.
The UN chief said the climate finance for poorer nations “is not about charity. It is about doing the right thing for those who are suffering most from a crisis that they did least to cause.”
The UN chief said there was “a gap of trust between developed and developing countries, that is why the (climate) negotiations have not been going very well.”
Stoltenberg called climate financing “a question of burden sharing, of balancing economic interests and responsibilities.”
Zenawi said the pressure would now be on the leaders of the rich nations.
“As Africans we have contributed virtually nothing to the environmental mess that our planet is in. We will however suffer first and suffer most as a result of the climate changed caused by others.”
Zenawi said that African nations consider climate finance “an issue of sanity and justice. The prospects for sanity and justice do not appear to be good. But I refuse to give up. I refuse to believe that our leaders lack the political will and foresight to do what is right.”
Greenpeace International said that rich nations have no excuse for not meeting their financial commitments.
“Unless developed country governments keep their promise to provide long-term finance, a global agreement on climate action would be nearly impossible to reach,” the group said in a statement.
Oxfam’s climate change spokesperson, Tracy Carty, commented: “Money to tackle climate change and help poor communities adapt can be raised without dipping into taxpayers’ pockets. The next step is for political leaders to lay out a clear roadmap for making this funding a reality.”