As the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany come to a close, more than 50 groups and and high-profile climate advocates, including journalist Naomi Klein, are demanding a Climate Damages Tax to levy on companies that extract coal, oil, and natural gas "to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change when these products are burnt, implemented nationally, regionally, or internationally."
"If the Pacific Islands are to survive, fossil fuels must be replaced with renewables. Even if we did this tomorrow, the Pacific will still face extreme impacts from climate change. The Pacific do not deserve to pay for this damage—the fossil fuel industry who have caused the problem should pay."
—Francois Martel, Pacific Islands Development Forum
The Climate Damages Declaration, which outlines the rationale behind implementing a global climate damages tax, points to "the ever growing numbers of people whose homes are lost, lives disrupted, critical ecosystems imperiled, and livelihoods ruined" due to anthropogenic climate change, emphasizing that "the countries and communities most deeply affected by irreversible climate change did not create these conditions."
Bangladesh, for example, "has a climate action plan, has implemented hundreds of climate projects on the ground, and we have invested taxpayers money into a climate change trust fund—all for a problem that we didn't create," said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.
The island of Seychelles, along with coastal communities worldwide, is "on the front line of sea level rise," said Ronny Jumeau, a signatory to the declaration and Seychelles' ambassador to the United Nations and United States.
"A key part of the solution is loss and damage finance—we need new sources of finance to cope with the impacts," Jumeau added. "A climate damages tax could provide a new source of finance, at scale, and in a fair way."
"A climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage—not poor people," said Julie-Anne Richards, international policy manager for the Climate Justice Program, which is also a signatory to the declaration.
Richards also lamented that "at COP23, rich countries have done everything they can to stymie discussion on ways to fund the poorest people on the front line of climate impacts," including the U.S. questioning climate impacts and promoting the fossil fuel industry—"the very industry making trillions of dollars of profits whilst it causes climate change."
Noting that the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement officially recognized "loss and damage," the declaration demands "the establishment of an initiative for loss and damage finance with a two year work plan identifying sources of revenue adequate to the scale of the problem in a predictable and fair way."
The declaration calls for the funds from the climate damages tax "to be allocated through the appropriate U.N. body, such as the Green Climate Fund or similar financial mechanism," and "the urgent replacement of fossil fuels, by mid-century at the latest," in favor of renewable sources of energy.
"If the Pacific Islands are to survive, fossil fuels must be replaced with renewables. Even if we did this tomorrow, the Pacific will still face extreme impacts from climate change," said Francois Martel, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, another signatory. "The Pacific do not deserve to pay for this damage—the fossil fuel industry who have caused the problem should pay."