Climate Crisis and the Environment

Turning The Tide On Climate Change: Carbon Taxes And Ecocide Laws

Hannah Pink

A few weeks ago, I spoke about how COVID has started to change the way we think about the environment. I touched upon some radical solutions such as carbon budgeting and taxing which have been suggested. At the time, I thought although it would be needed to see any real change, that the world just wasn’t ready to take that kind of step towards a sustainable future.

Well, I was wrong.

On the 2nd of December 2020, the UN Secretary-General addressed Columbia University about the state of the planet and said what I had mentioned. To be exact, they said it is time to “put a price on carbon”. They went on to say it is time “to shift the tax burden from income to carbon, and from taxpayers to polluters”. Essentially, they’re suggesting the radical solution I thought impossible. And if the UN is suggesting it, it may just come true – or at least hold some weight on a political stage.

In all honesty, though this was a shocking development, I still don’t think carbon budgeting will happen any time soon. Transnational corporations (TNCs) arguably hold more political power than the biggest countries – and they’re not held down by politics. 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Shocking, and yet they seem to escape any law or reprimand for what they’ve done, with governments picking up the slack instead.

International lawyers are trying to criminalise ecological degradation

Over 110 countries have pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050, with China pledging carbon neutrality by 2060. This is great, yes, but unless companies are held responsible, I don’t see much changing and that’s why carbon taxation is essential. When companies start losing profit because of carbon taxation, they’ll start thinking up radical solutions of their own and become carbon neutral a lot faster than entire nations can.

But it’s beginning to happen. We’re making strides. In late November, news came out that international lawyers are trying to criminalise ecological degradation, termed “ecocide”. This is a very new topic, with the website for the official ecocide law campaign not even being up yet at the time of writing. With work finishing early next year, it’ll be at least a few more years before ecocide can get through all the courts and pass as international law – if it gets that far. Still, it is a step in the right direction. I have hope.

With a private carbon offset market taskforce being launched by the UN in September, I have hope. We have the technology to go green, we just need the motivation. We just need to give TNCs the motivation. A healthy environment is legally recognised by 155 nations as being a basic human right.

Change is coming. The question is – is it coming fast enough?

Hannah Pink

Featured image by CAJC: in the PNW from Flickr. Image licence found here. No changes made to this image.

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Climate Crisis and the EnvironmentLifestyleScience

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