UN: African Robin Hood tax could fund climate adaptation efforts

Tax on finance, trade and tourism could net estimated $13 billion a year to help countries face expected extreme weather impacts

(Pic: African Union-United Nations)

(Pic: African Union-United Nations)

By Ed King

Africa will be hit hard by climate change even if warming is limited to levels deemed safe by governments, says a new UN report released on Tuesday.

A 2010 target to limit warming to below 2C above pre industrial levels would likely cause an increase in “under-nourished” people in sub-Saharan Africa it warns.

The authors say extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding and rising sea levels could cost the continent US $50 billion per year by 2050.

The UN Environment Programme, which commissioned the study, says it underlines the need to seal an ambitious climate change deal in Paris later this year.

Over 190 countries are currently engaged in talks to limit the use of fossil fuels, the main driver of soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

“The best insurance against the many potential negative impacts of climate change is ambitious global mitigation action in the long-run, combined with large-scale and rapidly increasing funding for adaptation,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

The report warns that past greenhouse gas emissions have already locked in adaptation costs of $7-15 billion a year by 2020.

Maize, millet, and sorghum – the fifth most prolific cereal crop on the planet – are at acute risk. Warming beyond 2C could render their current farmlands unviable.

Coastal cities in Mozambique, Tanzania, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco – home to over 10 million people – are also likely to face growing threats from encroaching sea levels by 2100.

“This is not just a question of money; millions of people and their livelihoods are at stake,” said Binilith Mahenge, Tanzania’s environment minister.

“Africa’s population will be at an increasing risk of undernourishment due to increasing food demand and the detrimental effects of climate change on agriculture on the continent.”

Without tough new emission cuts, adaptation funding levels need to be scaled up beyond the $1-2 billion per year already flowing to Africa, write the authors.

Greater levels of finance are expected to flow via the UN’s new Green Climate Fund, which launched last year, but African countries also need to create their own sources of income, they argue.

One ideas is a levy on extractive industries, financial and banking transactions, international trade and transportation and tourism, which could net an estimated $13 billion a year by 2030.

“Since it is in countries’ own direct interest to address the profound harm that climate change may cause to their economic development prospects, it is also in their interests to leave no stone unturned in exploring opportunities for financing adaptation that are within their own sovereign realm,” they write.

“Besides, international climate finance is unlikely, by itself, to be able to meet the whole bill for adaptation.”

Last year leaders in France and Germany proposed the EU adopt a transaction or ‘Robin Hood’ tax to fund climate efforts.

The plan collapsed in the face of fierce opposition from the UK, but in January the French government said it planned to re-open talks.

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