Industry Group, NGOs Propose Carbon Tax on Int’l Shipping as UN Climate Talks Open

The following post originally appeared on Global Warming is Real. It is reposted here with permission of the publisher, along with a 3p update.

All eyes are on Durban, South Africa this week as representatives from 194 nations meet to try to negotiate a global climate change treaty and supporting plans to mitigate and adapt to a warming, more volatile climate.

As if weighing in on the debate, Nature sent an unusual, torrential storm Durban’s way on the eve of the conference opening. Eight people had been reported killed as some 15,000 UNFCCC delegates crowded into the COP 17 conference center to hear South African President Jacob Zuma’s opening address.

‘Although the unseasonable storm cannot be directly linked to climate change, it is the kind of extreme weather that scientists say is happening more often,’said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate official, according to a Zee News report.

The effects of global warming are increasingly apparent, as are its costs – drought and famine in the Horn of Africa; historic droughts and agricultural losses in the American southwest; the flooding of Bangkok, large parts of Pakistan and other major Asian population centers; rising tides and seawater creeping higher along Florida’s Atlantic coast; the lowest levels of Arctic sea ice in the past 1,450 years- the indicators are too numerous to list in a blog post, and it keeps on growing.

UPDATE – 11/30

Financing is at the center of international climate change talks in Durban this week. Encouragingly, the International Chamber of Shipping, Oxfam and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have joined together and proposed instituting a price on international shipping’s carbon emissions. “A moderate $25/ton carbon price” could result in $25 billion being raised per year by 2020, Oxfam International policy advisor on climate change Tim Gore told BuaNews.

International shipping – which uses heavy, so-called bunker fuels – accounts for 3% of global CO2 emissions.

“If governments decide that shipping should contribute to the UNFCCC ‘Green Climate Fund’, the industry can probably support in principle as long as the details are agreed at the IMO (International Maritime Organization), with the industry’s clear preference for a market based mechanism being a compensation fund linked to the fuel consumption of ships, rather than an emissions trading scheme,” ICCS Secretary General Peter Hincliffe told BuaNews.

A “double dividend” for climate change action would result if $10 billion/year from these proceeds were to be channeled to the UNFCCC Copenhagen Green Climate Fund (GCF), Gore added.

Established at COP 16 in Cancun in 2009, developed countries committed to contributing $100 billion a year to the GCF in order to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Hammering out the details of the fund’s structure and how it would work are one of the key facets of the UNFCCC COP 17 climate change talks.

Scheduled to be up and running by 2013, a final design agreement on the GCF is anticipated at COP 17 in Durban. A shortage of government revenues among developed countries, particularly in Europe, as well as objections from the US and Saudi Arabia has led to concerns that this may be delayed, however.

More Troubling Signs, and Escalating Costs

We humans continue to spew ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into our atmosphere despite all the science, observations and spiraling costs. Greenhouse gas emissions “have increased beyond the worst predictions of the UN’s climate experts – exceeding the worst of seven emissions predictions laid down by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisations,” Rob Waugh writes in a Daily Mail report.

“The World Meteorological Organisation said heat-trapping carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have increased by 39 per cent to 389 parts per million – the highest concentrations since the start of the industrial era in 1750.” That humans are primarily responsible for this increase should be unquestionable, and should be cause for concerted global action on the part of world leaders.

Oddly enough, global temperature has been rising as well: 2010 ranked as the warmest year on record, making it a three-way tie for the warmest year ever recorded. And guess what? The other two years – 1998 and 2005 – both just happened to have occurred in the last 12, according to the WMO.

Global warming’s effects on agriculture are particularly disturbing given a 7-billion and rising world population. Adequately feeding all of us – a projected 9 billion by 2050 – will require a 70% increase in global food production, according to the latest research from the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) released Monday in Rome. The challenge is nothing if not daunting.

“Russia lost 13.3 million acres of crops, or about 17 percent of its production, due to a months-long heat wave. Drought in the Horn of Africa has killed 60 percent of Ethiopia’s cattle and 40 percent of its sheep. Floods in September have raised the price of rice by 25 percent in Thailand and 30 percent in Vietnam,” according to the FAO as cited in Zee News’ report.

High Time to Move Past Denial

Climate change skeptics and deniers would have us believe that this is merely coincidence. The data and/or models are faulty, they would have people believe. They claim that climate change and global warming are hoaxes. That a conspiracy is afoot between liberal politicians, environmentalists, the large and growing number of chief executives of the world’s largest corporations, financial institutions and investment groups, the majority of the world’s best scientists who are actually actively researching climate change, and whoever else of significance happens to agree that concerted global action to mitigate and adapt to global warming and climate change is needed, and needed now.

We will never scientifically prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a causal link between global warming, climate change and anthropogenic CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions exists. But what has been amassed and proven in terms of scientific theory over 100 years of climate science is more than enough cause for concerted global action now.

If that’s just all too scientific and theoretical, the ever-growing body of empirical evidence should be more than sufficient to drive home the point that the climate is warming. The costs are already substantial, and the probability that they will escalate further in decades to come is increasing.

While expectations that UNFCCC negotiators will reach an accord are low, some optimism remains.
Emphasizing the importance of developed and developing world countries compromising and reaching an agreement on hard, equitable and enforceable targets to reduce CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions,
the UN’s Figueres stated that “future commitments by industrial countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions is ‘the defining issue of this conference,'” according to Zee News.

While acknowledging the enormity of the task, she then quoted anti-apartheid legend and former South African President Nelson Mandela, who said, “It always seems impossible until it is done,” Zee News reported.

* Photo courtesy of UNFCCC COP 17

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

One response

  1. Wow, if such a task were to come into effect, it would be such a boon for local economies. A much-needed one.

    As a global civilization, we transport so many goods from thousands of miles away, and most cases it’s something we could be getting from surrounding regions. The transition to buying locally-produced goods is bound to happen, whether we make it with grace and foresight or we’re forced to make it.

    The latter will be considerably messier.

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