Features, Fossil Politics

Call for disaster levy on fossil fuels

Fossil Fool Bulletin • 7 January 2020

The unprecedented national bushfire crisis has highlighted the urgent need for a National Climate Disaster Levy to pay for the immense impending costs of these ongoing disasters.

The Australia Institute launched a full-page advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on January 3, renewing its call for the levy.

Damage from the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009 occurred largely on a single day and is estimated to have cost Australians over $7 billion. In contrast, the current national bushfire catastrophe is at least six times as large in area and there is no end in sight.

$1 per tonne of emissions

Australia Institute modelling shows that the levy, set initially at $1 per tonne of embodied emissions from all coal, oil and gas mined in Australia would raise approximately $1.5 billion per year for a National Climate Disaster Fund.

“The current bushfires are unprecedented. Small businesses and households are facing enormous costs from this ongoing crisis,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute.

“It is misleading and disingenuous to suggest these events are natural because Australia has experienced bushfires before. Firefighters themselves are saying these bushfires are bigger, more intense and more dangerous than anything they have experienced before.

“All the science is telling us that these kinds of climate driven disasters will keep getting worse while we keep pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

“Every tonne of coal or gas mined in Australia adds approximately 2.5 tonnes of heat-trapping gas to the atmosphere, making bushfires more frequent and more intense. It’s time the handful of global gas and coal companies operating in Australia made a contribution to paying for the climate disasters they are fuelling.

“A National Climate Disaster Levy would help to begin shifting the economic burden of climate disasters from our at-risk regional communities to the global coal and gas companies that are creating the problem in the first place.

“Industries that face enormous costs as a result of climate change, including agriculture and tourism could then benefit from the national fund assisting with disaster recovery and building resilience.”

No effect on energy price, coal jobs

Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser at The Australia Institute, said: “A $1 per tonne levy would have virtually no effect on energy prices or coal jobs, but would be a huge help to everyone being affected by the damage these activities are causing.

“This policy would help communities to prepare for and recover from natural disasters, but it would also be great for creating jobs and boosting the economy. Industries that face enormous costs as a result of climate change, including agriculture, tourism and manufacturing, would benefit from the fund assisting with disaster recovery and building resilience.

“This is a popular policy, with nearly two out of three Australians supporting it. Polling undertaken for The Australia Institute’s Climate of the Nation 2019 report found that 62% of Australians support the introduction of a fossil fuel levy to pay for the impacts of climate change, with only 21% opposed.”

Mayors from communities affected by the current bushfire crisis across NSW support the proposal. They include: Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore; Bellingen Mayor, Cr Dominic King and Glen Innes Mayor, Cr Carol Sparks.

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