COP21 – TJN statement to the Citizen’s Climate Summit in Paris

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TJN participated at the Citizen’s Climate Summit in Paris this weekend.  TJN’s director John Christensen spoke at a rally in Montreuil where this statement on financing the social and ecological transition was agreed by an assembly of 196 civil society representatives seated in 196 chairs liberated from branches of BNP Paribas, HSBC and Société Generale across France during the preceding week (hitting back at thos banks’ continued aiding and abetting tax evasion and theft of public revenue).

What follows is the text of John Christensen’s statement to the Citizen’s Summit (in French below):

20151206_095438Thank you for inviting me to the Citizen’s Summit this weekend.

For years political leaders have refused to accept responsibility for tackling climate change. They have argued that the cost of making a transition to less polluting technologies was too great.

As a result far too little has been spent on developing the technologies to make clean energy cheaper.

In the past, governments led the way in researching and developing most of the key technologies that have changed lives around the world: computers, semiconductors, the internet, broadband, satellite communications, most of the important technologies incorporated in our smartphones, all trace back to government funded research and development.

So why have governments not been more active in funding the development of clean energy technologies and supporting poorer nations in leap-frogging beyond dirty energy sources into a post-hydrocarbon era?

At Copenhagen in 2009, many argued that these just wasn’t enough money. We, however, have argued that there are hundreds of billions of additional Euro available if governments find the will to take active measures to tackle the huge losses of revenue due to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Let’s start with the stocks of private wealth held in tax havens by so-called high net worth individuals. The best estimate we have ranges between $21 to $32 trillion. If the income from that wealth was taxed at even a modest rate, we would have an additional $180 billion per year to fund climate change mitigation.

Next we have the tax dodging by multinational companies. The International Monetary Fund estimates this costs governments around the world $700 billion a year.

But that tells only a part of the story. For decades governments have been subsidising the world’s largest companies through tax holidays, tax exemptions and special tax treatments. Again, these subsidies cost hundreds of billions a year, and yet they serve absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever.

Why don’t governments tax maritime and aviation fuels? Both industries are heavy polluters. Both require huge investments in public infrastructure. Billions of revenue would be raised by taxing their energy use, and perhaps the world would be far better off if we stopped flying roses to Europe from Kenya, and mange tout from Santiago de Chile because the true costs of airfreight are massively under-priced.

But why stop there. In 2014 governments spent $600 billion subsidising the price of petrol, diesel, gas, and coal to keep consumer prices below market levels. Another $100 billion was given to upstream oil and gas producers. These subsidies include tax breaks, infrastructure spending, and others (data source: Laura Merrill’s chapter Fossil-fuel Subsidies and Taxation: Two Sides of the Same Carbon Coin in this book)

Fossil fuel subsidies in the era of climate change take us in precisely the wrong direction. An International Monetary Fund working paper, which also took account of the huge hidden costs caused by pollution from fossil fuels, finds that the true cost to society of burning fossil fuels amounts to a colossal $10 million every minute of every day of the year.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago I worked with a UK Treasury team looking at how the introduction of a carbon tax might accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy technologies.

We knew at that time that huge economic benefits would be made by investing in energy reduction technologies – household insulation, more fuel efficient transport, and so on. We also knew that the energy markets were badly distorted in favour of fossil fuel consumption. We had no doubt that a carbon tax, which would raise billions of revenue every year, could play a major role in removing the market distortions that favour fossil fuels over renewables.

The main obstacle to adopting a carbon tax has been neo-liberal ideology – neo-liberals are surprisingly quiet about fossil fuel subsidies – and the lack of political commitment to international cooperation on tax matters.

Sadly, governments have not been prepared to cooperate by introducing carbon taxes, not even with the objective of financing green energy research. I remain convinced that a carbon tax would yield enormous sums to finance a transition to clean energy economy.

When politicians argue there is not enough money to finance a transition away from fossil fuels they are adopting an ideological position. If they wished, they could finance the transition immediately, either by tackling the huge revenue losses caused by tax havens, or by cooperating to introduce a carbon tax, or by cutting back on fossil fuel subsidies, or by using quantitative easing to finance the necessary investment.

For too long governments have avoided spending real money on tackling climate change. For two decades they tried to use private sector carbon trading permits as a mechanism to incentivise investors. These programmes have proven a futile waste of time and money.

We have demonstrated that huge sums of public money are available to finance a transition to a cleaner energy market. We should not allow our politicians to use lack of money as an excuse for not taking immediate action on a global scale. The only thing that stands in the way of a transition to a cleaner energy future is the lack of political will to accept that governments must now step up and take action.

Thank you.

Version française

Merci de m’avoir convié ce weekend au Parlement du Peuple. Depuis des années, nos dirigeants politiques refusent de prendre quelque responsabilité que ce soit concernant la crise climatique.

Les arguments qu’ils ne cessent de nous opposer se résument à l’idée que le passage à des technologies plus propres serait trop coûteux.

La conséquence directe de cette apathie? Trop peu a été investi dans le but de développer des technologies qui rendraient l’énergie plus propre.

Rappelons-nous le temps où les gouvernements prenaient les devants en matière de recherche et de développement de technologies essentielles qui ont transformé nos vies: ordinateurs, semi-conducteurs, Internet, le haut débit /le cable, les communications via satellites et la plupart des composants incorporés dans nos smartphones…ces avancées sont incontestablement attribuables au financement public de la recherche et du développement.

Pourquoi donc les gouvernements successifs ont-ils réduit le financement public du développement de technologies pour des énergies propres et le soutien dû aux pays plus pauvres pour les encourager à abandonner les énergies polluantes et à se propulser dans l’ère post-hydrocarbone?

A Copenhague en 2009, on entendit qu’il n’y avait pas assez d’argent. A cette époque, nous avons réfuté cet argument en affirmant que des milliards d’Euros seraient disponibles si les gouvernements prenaient des mesures adéquates pour endiguer les pertes gargantuesques de revenus fiscaux du fait de l’évasion et de la fraude fiscale.

Examinons d’abord les avoirs privés détenus dans les paradis fiscaux par ceux qu’on désigne comme des personnes nanties / ou aussi à haute valeur nette. A ce jour, la meilleure estimation évalue ces avoirs de 21 à 32 mille milliards / trillions de Dollars. Si les intérets perçus sur ce montant était taxé même modestement, on estime qu’une somme annuelle de 180 milliards de Dollars seraient disponibles pour pallier aux effets des changements climatiques.

Considérons ensuite les acrobaties fiscales des multinationales. Le FMI estime que ces acrobaties diminuent de 700 milliards de Dollars les rentrées fiscales annuelles des gouvernements du monde entier.

Mais ceci n’est que la partie émergée de l’iceberg. Depuis longtemps les gouvernements subventionnent les plus grandes sociétés mondiales par le biais de “vacances” fiscales/”congés” fiscaux, d’exemptions et de statuts spécifiques. Toutes ces subventions représentent des centaines de milliards par an, sans qu’elles ne servent à quoi que ce soit pour le bien public.

Pour quelles raisons les administrations ne taxent-elles pas le kérosene pour les avions et le fuel pour les bateaux? Ces 2 industries sont extremement polluantes et exigent d’énormes investissements en infrastructure publique. Des milliards seraient recouvrables si l’on taxait leur consommation d’énergie. On devrait également mettre fin au transport par avion de fleurs en provenance du Kenya et des mange-tout du Chili: les coûts de ce genre de transport sont massivement sous-évalués.

Mais ne nous arretons pas là! En 2014, les gouvernements ont subventionné, de l’ordre de 600 milliards de Dollars, le prix de l’essence, du diesel, du gaz, du charbon et de l’électricité pour maintenir les tarifs consommateurs en dessous des prix du marché.

100 milliards de Dollars supplémentaires ont été versés aux companies pétrolieres en amont. Ces subventions comprennent des reports d’impots, des dépenses d’infrastructure et bien d’autres.

Dans ce context de changements climatiques, les subsides favorisant les énergies fossils nous entrainent précisément dans la mauvaise direction. Une étude du FMI, prenant en compte les coûts cachés énormes dus à la pollution causée par les énergies fossils, démontre que le vrai coût pour la société atteindra un montant colossal de 10 millions de dollarspar minute.

Il y a 25 ans, je travaillais au sein d’une équipe du Trésor Public du Royaume-Uni qui était chargée d’étudier la facon dont l’introduction d’une taxe carbone pourrait accélérer la transition vers des technologies énergétiques propres.

Nous savions a l’époque que les marchés étaient particulierement disfonctionnels parce que favorables a la consommation d’énergies fossiles.
Mais les gouvernements européens n’étaient pas disposés a coopérer avec l’introduction de telles taxes, sans meme considérer l’objectif qu’elles pourraient financer la recherché pour une énergie plus écologique.

Lorsque nos dirigeants affirment qu’il n’y a pas assez d’argent pour assurer cette transition, ils / elles s’arc boutent en fait sur une position purement idéologique. S’ils / Si elles le souhaitaient vraiment, ils/elles pourraient financer cette transition immédiatement, soit en prenant controle de l’enorme perte de revenus causée par les paradis fiscaux, soit en coopérant afin d’introduire une taxe carbone, soit enfin en stoppant leur subventions ou en ayant recours au ‘quantitative easing’ afin de financer les investissements nécessaires.

Trop longtemps nos gouvernements ont tout fait pour éviter de faire des investissements tangibles afin d’adresser le changement climatique. Ils ont essayé d’utiliser les permis de marché du carbon du secteur privé comme un mécanisme d’incitation pour des investisseurs potentiels. Ce programme s’est avéré une énorme perte de temps et de fonds publics.

Nous avons démontré que des sommes faramineuses de revenus fiscaux sont potentiellement disponibles pour le financement d’un marché énergétique moins polluant. Ne laissons plus nos dirigeants utiliser l’excuse d’un soi-disant manque de fonds pour qu’ils retardent encore les mesures nécessaires et inévitables qui devraient etre immédiatement mises en oeuvre a l’échelle mondiale.

 


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