Calls for windfall taxes on oil and gas companies have intensified following recent headlines of sky-high profits by BP, Shell and others. But this measure to offset increasingly unaffordable energy bills this winter, must be just the start. We must make the fossil fuel industry properly accountable to people across the world for its crucial damaging role in causing the climate crisis that it denied for decades.
BP and Shell are each reckoned to be responsible for over 2% of global historic carbon emissions. Together that’s almost 10 times the contribution of Pakistan, devastated by catastrophic floods last year, leaving a reconstruction bill estimated at $30bn. We hear repeatedly of such extreme weather causing havoc, especially in the Global South. Vulnerable countries, already burdened with debt, face impossible challenges coping with the climate crisis.
Research by Global Justice Now shows that the Global South requires a total of $77 trillion between now and 2050 to cover compensation for loss and damage, investing in green energy and adapting to climate change.
Justice demands that the UK, historically the world’s 5th biggest carbon emitter, and others in the Global North transfer funds to help pay this enormous “climate debt”. But definitely not by inflicting more austerity on ordinary people. Instead, governments must find innovative ways to tax the powerful major polluters, starting with the fossil fuel industry. Over 11% of total historic carbon emissions are attributable to the Big Five Oil companies (Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and TotalEnergies), and they persist in exploiting new reserves.
As Aidan Baker reported, at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt in November a fund was set up – finally, after 30 years of struggle – to compensate for ‘Loss and Damage’ from extreme drought, floods, sea level rise, etc. But an empty kitty is useless. Now the wrangling really starts to make it an effective mechanism for achieving climate justice for communities in the Global South. Funds levied from the fossil fuel industry could make a real difference.
We can show solidarity by campaigning to make BP, Shell and other major oil and gas companies pay compensation for what they owe for their climate debts.
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