Green taxes, climate lawsuit, Amazon deforestation and oil lobbying
Taxes too low
Taxes on greenhouse gas emissions caused by energy use are still far too low in most countries to result in any meaningful switch away from the most emissions-intensive energy sources, according to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report published during the Paris climate summit. The OECD said energy use should attract a CO2 price of at least €30 per tonne, but the levy is well below that for 90% of emissions from the world's top 41 economies. For 60% of emissions, no CO2 price is applied. One country that could do much more to make the polluter pay is the US, with an “effective carbon rate” of less than €5, the OECD found. “We need an effective price on carbon emissions if we want to tackle climate change,” OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría said. “Unfortunately, implementation of the polluter pays principle is woefully lacking.”
Peru v Germany
A Peruvian farmer has started a novel climate-related lawsuit against German energy leviathan RWE. In late November, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a smallholder from the northern Peruvian Andes, filed a case against the company in Essen, Germany, alleging that RWE has been responsible for 0.5% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions since the 1850s and should pay €20,000 – or 0.5% of the cost – for flood prevention measures to protect his community in Peru. Lliuya's lawyers argue he has a case based on a provision in German law that a company cannot use its property to damage the property of a third party. Lliuya decided to go to court after RWE rejected a demand for payment earlier in 2015. Legal experts have said the case could set a precedent.
Illegal deforestation in Mato Grosso, the giant western Brazilian state, half of which is covered by Amazon rainforest, will be halted by 2020, according to a commitment signed by the state's governor and Brazil's environment ministry. Most Amazon deforestation is caused by illegal clearance of forest for cattle farming to produce beef to meet rising global demand. Measures in Mato Grosso will include tougher enforcement and assistance to farmers to increase productivity from already cleared land. The amount of forest cleared in Mato Grosso in 2014-15 jumped 40% over the area cleared the previous year. The area of rainforest cleared in Brazil overall was up 16%, to a total area of 2,250 square miles, a little larger than Norfolk. Brazil as a whole has promised to achieve zero deforestation by 2030.
The likelihood of an official investigation into oil companies for attempts to muddy the waters about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the global climate could be growing. A group of Democrat members of the US House of Representatives has written to ExxonMobil and other companies asking them to clarify when they became aware that their activities could contribute to global warming, if they sought to spread uncertainty by funding climate-change-sceptical organisations, and any differences between what they told investors and regulators and their in-house knowledge about the effects of their emissions. One representative, Ted Lieu, said that deliberate obfuscation by oil companies “could be illegal”.
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