The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is calling for a new ‘loss and damage fund’ to ensure payments from those most responsible for climate change go towards those most affected by climate disasters.
The Republic of Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister, the Hon Ralph Regenvanu, has called on countries and international institutions to set up such a climate damages tax, given his nation’s vulnerability to climate impacts.
The statement comes as world leaders gather in Poland for COP24 climate talks, which aim to implement the goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement. Before the talks, Vanuatu announced that it would explore taking legal action against fossil fuel companies and countries for their role in causing climate change.
In a joint announcement with Avinash Persaud – Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Dominica on the recovery from hurricane Maria and Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados on Investment and Finance – Minister Regenvanu said:
“Despite this new awareness and action around climate change loss and damage, the global climate conferences and heartfelt generosity, humanity continues to avoid the key issue: those who gain from the activities that created climate change are not the ones directly suffering its consequences.
“We will only stop climate change by making those who contribute to it, pay for it.
“Right now the communities paying for climate change are mostly the poor, who live in the world’s most precarious places. This is untenable, indefensible and reprehensible. We need a different approach than the traditional insurance model.
“Climate change is not a freak of nature. It is human-made, as human-made as power and greed. If the consequences of climate change were felt disproportionately by those who have contributed to it, it would have stopped long ago.
“The idea of taxing the fossil fuel industry is an economically sensible approach, and a moral approach. This industry has spent decades fuelling climate denial whilst making profits. In 2017 alone the top six oil companies made $134 billion in profit from over $2 billion in revenue.”
Reacting to the announcement, ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac said: “The reality of living on the frontline of climate-exacerbated disasters is stark: climate change is already wreaking havoc to the tune of hundreds of billions in damages on communities that have historically contributed the least to global warming.
“Climate attribution science is increasingly able to link extreme weather events – such as wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and flooding – to human-caused global warming. With climate breakdown only expected to get worse, the global community must ensure those already experiencing the consequences of climate change have a financial mechanism to help safeguard their survival.”
Under the Paris agreement, countries have agreed to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.
The historic UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent special report confirmed that urgent and drastic carbon emission reductions are need to ensure the planet keeps global warming below 1.5°C.
Small, low-lying island nations such as Vanuatu are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In 2015, the tropical cyclone Pam wiped out 64% of Vanuatu’s GDP, crippling livelihoods and the national economy.