Fossil fuel tax proposed to cover rising costs of extreme weather linked to climate change
by Reuters, agencies
10 Dec. 2018
Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels could help pay for the growing costs of damage from harsher storms, wildfires, floods and rising seas, while providing a stronger incentive to wean the world off carbon-heavy energy, green groups said on Monday.
A "climate damages tax" levied on oil, gas and coal companies could raise $300 billion a year by 2030 to bail out communities bearing the brunt of global warming, said a proposal supported by WWF, Practical Action and others.
The tax would lay the cost of rising disaster losses directly on the industries most responsible for them, they said in a report released at U.N. climate negotiations in Poland.
Besides assisting those in need overseas, the funds raised from the government-levied tax would help poorer groups at home switch to green jobs, energy and transport, its backers said.
Spending on social justice measures is seen as crucial to address rising living costs, sparked partly by a rise in fuel taxes.
"The injustice of climate change is that the impacts are felt first and hardest by those with the least responsibility for its causes," said Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu''s foreign affairs minister.
His Pacific island nation lost 64 percent of its GDP - about $450 million - during Cyclone Pam in 2015, and has struggled to recover financially, he noted. "We cannot sustain the level of public expenditure we need to keep recovering," he said.
As the pace of disasters picks up, "we''re now on a permanent state-of-emergency footing" and new sources of finance are needed to help meet costs, he said.
Saleemul Huq, head of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said that with cash to help poorer countries in short supply, fossil fuel companies that profit from driving climate change are an obvious source of additional money.
Right now, "the fossil fuel industry is causing this problem and getting out of paying for it", he added.
From 2021, the proposed tax would levy $5 on each tonne of heat-trapping emissions expected to be generated by oil, coal and gas deposits that are extracted from the ground.
The money would flow through existing national systems for royalty payments where fossil fuel companies operate, with a share going through a body set up under the Green Climate Fund to help pay for losses around the world, the report said.
Part of the levy would stay in nations with fossil fuel industries, to help their workers find new jobs and pay for cleaner infrastructure for low-income communities, it said.
Poorer fossil fuel-producing states, would keep the funds raised, with middle-income nations retaining a larger share of income than richer countries, which would keep about half.
The tax would rise by $5 a year until 2030, jumping to a $10 annual increase after that through 2050, when fossil fuels must be phased out of global energy systems to meet government commitments made under the 2015 Paris climate accord.
"The world must move itself off fossil fuels if we are to protect the planet - and we must do so quickly," Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF''s climate and energy head, said in a statement supporting the tax.
Julie-Anne Richards, one of the report''s authors, said the tax was "a practical way to address the injustice at the heart of climate change".
The fossil fuel industry makes "hundreds of billions in profits while the true costs of their products are paid by the rest of society", she added.
There are precedents for such taxes on tobacco, oil spills and the nuclear industry, she noted.
And as losses mount from extreme weather events, a fossil fuel levy could become more politically palatable, particularly as companies face a rising tide of costly lawsuits over their responsibility in causing climate change.
"This tsunami of litigation that is coming down the line will make the climate damages tax look more appealing," Richards said on the sidelines of the U.N. talks.
Storm damage alone in the United States and the Caribbean alone last year amounted to more than $220 billion, representing nearly two-thirds of global losses caused by natural disasters in 2017, the United Nations said last week.
* As greenhouse gas emissions increase, the Climate Change Performance Index 2019 shows that only a handful of nations have implemented strategies to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The annual report tracks climate change performance in 56 countries and the EU.
"Our climate change index shows that there is no lack of commitment to the Paris climate agreement — but there is still a lack of political will to implement concrete steps," said Jan Burck from Germanwatch, an environmental organization that co-authored the report with the NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network."There are no excuses for this, as all solutions are on the table and are also affordable," Burck added:
http://bit.ly/2UxS8Ht http://bit.ly/2QnJwVu http://climateactiontracker.org/
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With stronger political will and greater financial commitment we can dramatically reduce hunger
by IFPRI-FAO, ESCAP, UNICEF, WFP, WHO
With hunger on the rise, a global forum aims to catalyze urgent action to end all forms of undernutrition by 2030. (IFPRI-FAO)
With rising levels of global hunger putting the goal of ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 in serious jeopardy, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have today launched a global conference aimed at urgently accelerating efforts to achieve Zero Hunger worldwide.
After decades of reductions in the numbers of undernourished people, hunger is again on the march. According to the latest report published jointly by FAO and four other UN agencies, over 820 million people on the planet are malnourished.
“This is the third consecutive year that progress in ending hunger has stalled and now has actually increased (in 2015, 2016 and 2017). Child stunting is a major problem and nearly two billion still suffer from hidden hunger or a deficiency of important nutrients. This also includes people who are overweight or obese,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in a message to the conference.
Pointing out that the number of hungry and malnourished people in the world has gone back up to levels last seen ten years ago, he added: “After decades of gains in fighting hunger, this is a serious setback and FAO and the UN sister agencies, together with other partners, are all very concerned.”
While there are big challenges in reaching Zero Hunger, FAO and IFPRI are stressing that the goal is still achievable. But there is no time to waste.
“After many years of global progress in reducing hunger and malnutrition, it is painfully clear that our current pace is not sufficient to end hunger by 2030, but we can still achieve this goal,” said Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General. “A number of countries have achieved real reductions in hunger and malnutrition, and those successes hold important lessons for the places currently struggling to make significant progress.”
The conference, attracting delegates primarily from Africa and Asia is providing a platform to accelerate the sharing of existing knowledge, approaches and tools that have led to success in countries so others can learn, adapt and accelerate their own work to reduce hunger and malnutrition in sustainable ways.
While Africa continues to be the hungriest continent per capita, the Asia-Pacific region has the highest total number of undernourished – more than 500 million by FAO estimates.
The size of the global challenge means it must be addressed meaningfully and immediately. For example, the Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s undernourished, and in order for it to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 the countries of the region need to collectively lift more than 110,000 people out of hunger each and every day for the next 12 years.
The urgency of the task at hand cannot be overstated – and ending undernutrition is more complex than many realize. The rise in global hunger is witnessed alongside an increase in obesity, which brings with it an entirely different set of health and economic challenges for the world now and in the future.
Worldwide, improvements in technology are helping to realise better nutrition. For example, boosting the nutritional value of staple foods through fortification or crops themselves through biofortification is helping reduce incidence of harmful health conditions like anemia and improve cognitive development in places as diverse as Zambia and India.
And approaches like precision farming, drip irrigation, conservation agriculture, and the introduction of staples that are resilient to droughts and floods all represent additional examples of powerful tools that can help us produce greater amounts ofmore nutritious foods in more sustainable ways.
The proliferation of new communications technologies, and ability to harness big data, also offer opportunities to scale up successes significantly to even greater impact.
Innovation in agriculture can involve using new social, organizational and institutional processes to support farmers and sustainably intensify production.
These can range from building stronger producer self-help groups and extension services, to improving access to markets and credit in pioneering ways, to developing new ways of processing, storage, transport and marketing food. Innovation can be decidedly "low tech" – for example leaving stands of trees on farms intact to promote soil health and enhance agroecosystem productivity. Innovations in intervention design can boost their potential impact, like when behavior change communications that encourage the adoption of ideal nutrition and child feeding practices are integrated into social protection programmes to improve household nutrition as well as food consumption.
It is hoped that by convening key figures from the worlds of research, policymaking, and development programme implementation to share knowledge of the policies, interventions, and technologies that have effectively accelerated the reduction of undernutrition, the conference aims to catalyze further reductions in hunger and malnutrition.
“We have the tools, and we have the knowledge to eliminate hunger in the next 12 years,” said Fan. “By empowering key actors in policymaking, research, and program implementation with those tools and knowledge, we can reach this goal and help millions of people achieve their full potential.”
“We need to work closely together more than ever, sharing with each other those successful experiences. If we can accelerate this knowledge exchange, then we can accelerate its implementation and take actions that are more concrete,” Graziano da Silva said.
“Hunger and obesity are not simply an individual’s problem. They are public issues. That is why this conference jointly convened by IFPRI and FAO is so important. We must accelerate our actions to end hunger and malnutrition. But we also need stronger political will and greater financial commitment to get the job done. Political will is fundamental.”
The IFPRI-FAO Conference on Accelerating the End of Hunger and Malnutrition, is taking place in Bangkok and runs 28-30 November, 2018. http://bit.ly/2PWR3ua
UN agencies raise alarm over weakened fight against hunger and malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific - FAO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO.
Four specialized agencies of the United Nations today warned of a colossal human loss to Asia and the Pacific and its economies if countries in the region do not recommit themselves to ending all forms of malnutrition and achieving zero hunger by 2030.
The warning came during the launch of a new regional report revealing that the reduction in the number of hungry and malnourished people – including children – has come to a virtual standstill in many parts of Asia and the Pacific.
The Asia and Pacific region accounts for well over half of the world’s undernourished – nearly half a billion people (486 million).
While recently released global figures indicate an overall rise in the prevalence of hunger worldwide, returning to levels from a decade ago, this regional report points out that stagnation in combating hunger and malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific is also a major concern due to the large numbers of people involved.
The report, Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, published today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights a number of converging challenges that threaten to undermine the Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 (SDG 2).
“Progress in reducing undernourishment has slowed tremendously. The report’s estimates show that the number of hungry people has barely changed during the past two years, making it increasingly difficult to achieve the Zero Hunger target of SDG 2,” the regional heads of the four UN agencies wrote in their joint foreword.
A colossal human and economic loss
The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s malnourished children. Malnutrition covers a broad spectrum and affects people of all ages – ranging from severe undernutrition to overweight and obesity – but children in particular, continue to bear the burden.
In this region, 79 million children, or one child in every four below the age of five, suffers from stunting and 34 million children are wasting, 12 million of whom suffer from severe acute malnutrition with drastically increased risk of death. While some significant progress has been made towards a reduction of stunting, there has been little improvement in wasting during the past decade.
“The sad reality is that an unacceptably large number of children in the region continue to face the multiple burden of malnutrition despite decades of economic growth. This is a colossal human loss given the association between undernutrition and poor cognitive development, with severe lifelong consequences for the future of these children,” the regional UN heads said, noting this also results in economic losses to a nation’s economy due to missed opportunities of human potential.
The report points out that, from a cost-benefit perspective, many nutrition interventions can result in a return of USD 16 for every dollar invested.
Incidences of climate-related disasters have been rising in the region. Natural disasters impact food security and nutrition through reduced food production, which can then cascade down to the entire food value chain, affecting livelihoods and causing economic and agricultural loss.
Beyond the short term, disasters can impact the agriculture sector through loss of assets and rural infrastructure, and through increased disease outbreaks. According to recent FAO estimates, Asia suffered a loss of USD 48 billion during 2005-2015. Countries need to adapt agriculture to become more resilient to climate related events and to mitigate the damage they can cause.
Limited or poor access to safe food and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is another of the key drivers of malnutrition among children. To contribute substantially to reducing malnutrition, food safety and WASH improvements and coverage must be improved and expanded across the region.
Persistent hunger and rising obesity: Unacceptable developments in an otherwise prosperous region
The report also highlights the almost paradoxical reality of an increase in obesity of both children and adults in the region. It reveals that the region is now home to the fastest growing prevalence of childhood obesity in the world.
Asia and the Pacific has witnessed rapid growth in the number of overweight children and the serious consequences that entails for their future health and well-being. An estimated 14.5 million children under five are overweight and virtually all children in the region are increasingly exposed to cheap, unhealthy processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat but poor in essential nutrients.
“This double burden of malnutrition sees undernourished and overweight children living in the same communities and households and it can even occur within the same child,” the report said.
As migration from rural to urban areas continues apace, particularly involving poorer families, urban malnutrition is another challenge facing many countries. At the current rate of urbanization, by 2030, more than 55 percent of the Asian population will be living in cities and towns.
While urbanization can bring economic opportunity, the growth is often not equitable and is associated with a concurrent prevalence of high and sustained undernutrition in children with rapidly rising rates of obesity in children and adults.
“These developments in food security and nutrition are at odds with the region’s continuing high level of economic growth,” the regional UN agency heads noted, with new concerns raised that a large majority of countries in the region now risk missing both SDG 2 and World Health Assembly targets on nutrition.
Efforts to fight malnutrition must also go hand in hand with those to build and sustain peace, the report says, and there is an urgent need to accelerate and scale up actions that strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of people and their livelihoods to climate variability and extremes.
This is the first time that the four UN agencies responsible for helping countries in Asia and the Pacific achieve food security, improve maternal and child health and welfare, have jointly published such a report. Their joint efforts underline the urgency of the present situation and represents a united front and call to action in urging governments to show greater resolve in meeting previous commitments to end hunger and improve food security and nutrition across the region.
The four UN agencies summarize the report’s findings: “What is becoming increasingly clear is that the world cannot meet the 2030 target of zero hunger if Asia and the Pacific – the world’s most populous region – is not leading the way. It is a hard reality but one that must be faced with a united determination to turn things around.”
* Access the 96pp report: http://bit.ly/2PyvMGd
Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific 2018
The Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific lays out new arguments and evidence for the critical and urgent need to increase investment in people, particularly in social protection.
Developing countries in Asia and the Pacific only spend about 3.7 per cent of GDP on social protection, compared to the world average of 11.2 per cent. This under investment is the reason why 60 per cent of the population in the Asia-Pacific region has no protection if they fall ill, have a disability, become unemployed, pregnant or old.
With 1.2 billion people living on than less $3.20 per day, of which 400 million live on less than $1.9 per day, social protection is an essential strategy to tackle poverty and deprivation.
The evidence for increasing the level of investment in people in Asia and the Pacific is overwhelming: around 328 million people would be lifted out of moderate poverty and 52 million would move out of extreme poverty, if countries in the region matched the global averages of spending on education, health and social protection.
Countries in the region do not have to wait to become rich to start investing in people. Even low income and lower-middle income countries can boost social spending, as evidenced by some first movers across the region.
Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific, by Shamshad Akhtar - Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s recent economic success belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, will thwart the ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge states and governments in the Asia and the Pacific region.
It’s imperative, because as the recent Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Despite Asia-Pacific’s economic growth, over 400 million people remain trapped in extreme poverty at $1.90 a day with at least 1.2 billion people remaining in vulnerable situations ($3.20 a day). Disparities in income and wealth, as well as those related to basic services are persisting and preventing a future of shared prosperity. Whilst there has been welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region, in several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction.
Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.
Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty.
More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.
The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education. Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can help underpin a healthy society.
Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.
Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.
This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution.
Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.
We need more effective taxation systems to increase the tax take, and better governance and public expenditures so the proceeds of economic growth are shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.
Government leaders need to strengthen their commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.
* Shamshad Akhtar is Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). ESCAP is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region - made up of 53 States - home to 4.1 billion people.
* Report: Inequality in Asia and Pacific (124pp): http://bit.ly/2KY29Nd
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