Should fossil fuel polluters answer to a Climate Damages Tax?

We know women are disproportionately affected by climate change and global weather disasters like typhoons which are aggravated by a warming planet, and this is particularly true of areas in the world most susceptible to extreme weather events. Women are more likely to be in the home rather than in a workplace with more secure or weather resistant infrastructure, they’re also more likely to be carers of children or the elderly which can make it difficult to act quickly or seek refuge. 

From attending the launch for the Climate Damages Tax campaign this week I learnt that a state of permanent disaster has been woven into the fabric of the everyday for too many people, especially for coastal dwellers and those inhabiting low-level island nations. Speakers at the panel, like Ralph Regenvanu a member of parliament for Vanuatu and Emele Duituturaga representing the Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, stressed a serious normalization of catastrophe.

 Launch of Climate Damages Tax Campaign

Launch of Climate Damages Tax Campaign

For nations and communities existing at the frontline of climate violence they struggle to recuperate and organise in time; still paying the price of damage from one climate crisis, when the next cyclone or tropical storm hits.

Speakers expressed how trauma hangs in the air due to a lack of funding to rehabilitate, citing the critical issue as; ‘the inadequacy of existing facilities to find this money.’ The proposed Climate Damages Tax, already supported by numerous organisations internationally, intends to impose a charge on the extraction of coal, oil and gas so that the extracting company pays the price, with an ultimate aim to changing the ethos and methods of the fossil fuel industry altogether. This money would then be used depending on the wealth and status of the country the fossil fuel was extracted from. For example, in the UK more of the tax would go to a central international fund for rehabilitation for vulnerable countries, whereas countries that pollute significantly less would have access to all of their revenue.

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The campaign launch was chaired by Caroline Lucas MP, an ambassador for WEN and co-leader of the Green Party, however the success of implementing a Climate Damages Tax depends on support that crosses both political party lines and international borders. An alliance between the biggest historical polluters and those most severely affected by climate change is key to the implementation and success of this tax.

While those representing the least responsible nations spoke of creating climate resilient nations and waterproofing the economy, an eerie reminder of the totality of destruction was provided by Regenvanu. South Pacific Island state Vanuatu was due to host the Commonwealth summit currently being held in London, but has yet to recover from a tropical storm that struck in 2015.

Importantly, the lobbying for the tax does not require an all or nothing approach like the structure of the Paris agreement, countries working together can create an intergovernmental agreement to make sure that those paying for climate change are the polluters, with an ultimate aim to phasing out fossil fuel extraction altogether.

For more information about the Climate Damages Tax, visit www.stampoutpoverty.org/cdt or see the CDT briefing. A recording of the event is available here.