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"Stop Making a Killing at the Planet's Expense": Climate Advocates Call for Fossil Fuel Companies to Foot Australia Fires Bill

"'Whatever it takes' needs to include serious and ambitious action to reduce Australia's and global emissions."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House on January 05, 2020 in Canberra, Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House on January 05, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

Climate advocates are calling on fossil fuel companies to pay for the damage caused by Australia's unprecedented bushfires rather than that country's taxpayers forking over an additional $2 billion for those affected by the crisis.

"Regular Australians should not be forced to pay while fossil fuel producers are being let off scot-free," the Australia Institute's deputy director Ebony Bennett said in a statement. 

"It's disappointing that the Australian community will be left to pick up the tab for a climate-fueled disaster," she added.

Bennett, whose group is pushing for the Australian government to impose a "modest levy" on fossil fuel producing companies to cover the cost of bushfire recovery and first introduced the proposal in December, added that taxing those responsible for the climate crisis to provide the funds for disaster mitigation would "shift the economic burden of these disasters from regular Australians to the coal and gas companies that are fueling the climate crisis."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday that the government would obtain the additional $2 billion from the country's projected $5 billion surplus for the year. 

"The surplus is of no focus for me," said Morrison, whose response to the fires has been seen as, at best, insufficient by critics.

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Monday's news of more aid from the government came as energy giant Chevron announced it would provide $1 million to the Australian Red Cross to aid in the group's recovery efforts. 

A donation—a fraction of the company's annual revenue—is not what's needed from Chevron, tweeted TIME editor-at-large Anand Giridharadas.

"We need you to stop making a killing at the planet's expense," said Giridharadas.

In her comments, the Australia Institute's Bennett said that putting fossil fuel companies on the hook for the damage from the fires was the best way to ensure those behind the climate crisis pay for the damage.

"The government has now acknowledged the link between global warming and these disasters, so placing a modest climate disaster levy on the companies that are responsible is an important next step," said Bennett.

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