Financial imaginations must be employed following UN climate report, say campaigners

By staff writers
November 5, 2010

Today’s United Nations report on how to raise $100 billion a year to tackle climate change in poor countries relies too heavily on hopes that the market will help the world’s poorest people cope with global warming and get the clean energy they need, campaigners warned today.

However there was a broad welcome for the proposals by the UN High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing that there should be increased taxes on carbon emissions and air and sea transport to raise 100 billion dollars a year 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 fund to help poorer nations counter the impact of the warming planet.

The proposals will be sent to all governments and will get a first international airing at the next UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico starting at the end of the month.

The report "contains financing options that are both financially feasible and politically viable," said the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. "This 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."

Christian Aid praised the suggestions by the top UN panel that governments should tax the aviation and shipping industries as one way of raising the money needed – and urged governments to back other such innovative sources of public funds.

"So far, market responses to climate change have failed to meet the needs of the poorest people in developing countries, who are least responsible but worst affected by climate change," said Sol Oyuela, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Climate Change and Poverty.

"So it’s important that governments play a key role in funding and regulating climate action. Especially today, when many governments don’t have ambitious climate policies, it is crucial that most, if not all, the $100 billion comes from new sources of public funding, such as taxes on planes, ships and financial transactions. It’s time for governments to use their financial imaginations."

Christian Aid believes that this is not just a question of who is most able to protect the most vulnerable families, who lack spending power – it is also a matter of justice. It is rich countries that are overwhelmingly responsible for climate change and so it is their governments which should now take responsibility for coming up with the $100 billion.

Ms Oyuela added: "We know that the financial crisis has put huge pressure on public funds around the world difficult but the effects of climate change are so devastating for poor countries – we are talking about worsening poverty, hunger, conflict and disease – that we cannot ignore their desperate need."

In the UK, Christian Aid believes that there is no excuse for government inaction on climate finance now that the Advisory Group has published its report. If the coalition is committed to tackling climate change and global poverty, then it should take the lead with other rich countries to ensure that the $100 billion comes from innovative sources of public funds. It should also start actually raising the money.

Ms Oyuela added: "We would also like to see the UK government give serious backing to the Advisory Group’s suggestion for a tax on aviation and shipping. Such a tax would have a double benefit: it would put downward pressure on emissions from planes and ships while also raising some of the billions which people living in poverty urgently need.

"Christian Aid has one other message for the UK government: every penny of the money that we contribute towards the $100 billion should be clearly additional to the funds we already spend on international development.

"Climate funding is a matter of justice, not charity. The men, women and children who currently benefit from UK aid spending should not be forced to pay our contribution towards global climate funds, which is what will happen if ministers raid the aid budget to pay for climate change."

David Hillman, spokesperson for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, said: “The UN Advisory Group now agrees with both the IMF and EC that financial sector taxes can generate billions in new and additional revenue to help us meet our global challenges.

“It is another call to arms that banks can and should give something back to the global community. The UN could be more ambitious – banks can easily afford the US$100 billion set out in the report and much more besides. It would clean up their image and help developing countries cope with the worst effects of climate change.”


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.