Paris Climate Meeting Concludes Sans Global Shipping Tax Agreement

By Outlook Planet Desk June 24, 2023

A global tax on the greenhouse gas emissions produced by international shipping may be adopted at the International Maritime Organization's July meeting, a United Nations institution that regulates shipping

Paris Climate Meeting Concludes Sans Global Shipping Tax Agreement
There are options available in every sector to halve the carbon emissions by 2030. Photo: AP

A deal to impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping fell through at the Paris summit on Friday, leaving climate NGOs and activists bemoaning the lack of ambitious solutions to combat climate change and global inequalities proposed at the meeting. Although organisers did unveil a promised "road map" intended to carry out French President Emmanuel Macron's commitment to evaluate reforms of the international financial system over the next two years, the two-day summit of world leaders and banking executives came to a conclusion without making any major announcements.

“We need to be clear that if we don't change the institutions, the world will remain the same," Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said. “Those who are rich will stay rich. Those who are poor will remain poor. This is the way it is.”

The International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations organisation that oversees shipping, will convene in July and may decide to embrace the idea of a global tax on the greenhouse gas emissions caused by international shipping. 

The funds might be used to aid developing nations in coping with climate change.

A significant vote in favor of it in Paris would have given Macron a symbolic victory since some analysts estimate that a tax on shipping alone might raise USD 100 billion annually.

“This is a tax-free sector. And there's no reason why it's not taxed,” Macron said. But the French president, who hosted the summit, suggested that China and the US were not supporting the idea.

“If China, the US, and several key European countries are not on board, then you would put a tax in place that would not have any impact,” he added. 

The tax was described as "a very constructive suggestion" by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was present at the conference, and she added that the US will examine it. The suggestion, which might be a crucial step towards getting a heavily emitting industry to contribute to the cost of combating climate change, was not apparent as to which nations at the meeting supported it. 23 countries, which were not included in the formal declaration, according to the French presidency, supported the idea.

Both actions could lower financing costs, which are normally significantly higher for low-income countries that frequently struggle to adapt to climate change while also dealing with poverty and a wide range of other problems.

During the closing ceremony, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said that African countries are not "beggars." “It's important in the new era where the world is now, that there should be a good measure of equality among sovereign nations ... We should go to demonstrate that Africa should never be seen as a continent that needs generosity. We want to be treated as equals."

The World Bank unveiled a plan at the meeting to give the most vulnerable nations a break from loan repayments in times of crisis or natural disaster. Several weaker nations have access to Special Drawing Rights, a type of asset worth USD 100 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund. The French presidency then announced that 40% of its COVID-19 pandemic assets would be shared. Two deals were announced on the first day of the summit. According to French officials, Zambia, which is heavily indebted, has agreed to restructure USD 6.3 billion in loans with a number of creditors, including China.

Additionally, Senegal secured an agreement with the European Union and its friends in the West to support its initiatives to enhance energy access and raise its proportion of renewable energy to 40% by 2030. NGOs and climate activists praised certain summit results but claimed they didn't go far enough.

"We are disappointed to see that most leaders of the world's richest nations and most powerful institutions have once again gathered and emerged with insufficient solutions and lightly held promises," Global Citizen and its partners said in a statement.

“By steering closer to private finance sources and tweaking on the edges of existing multilateral development banks, the summit merely dressed the old in new packaging, such as by suggesting debt pauses for poor countries hit by disasters rather than full debt cancellation,” Climate Action Network said in a statement.

Both a tax on financial transactions and a tax on the production of fossil fuels have been proposed by activists, but neither seems to have much support among wealthy countries.

“Silence on the fossil fuel industry paying for the mess they have caused was deafening at this summit,” Tracy Carty, climate politics expert at Greenpeace International, said.

Only two of the senior leaders from the Group of Seven most developed countries — French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz — were there, and most of the attendees were from developing and climate-vulnerable countries. Yellen and John Kerry, a climate envoy, spoke for the US. Li Qiang, the prime minister of China, Ajay Banga, the president of the World Bank, and Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the IMF, were also there.

Climate activists gathered in central Paris on Friday to ask polluters to pay for climate damage.“There will be no climate justice without making the polluters pay,” said Patience Nabukala, part of the Fridays for Futures Uganda activist group. 

“People from countries like mine, we cannot afford to lose more lives, we cannot afford to lose more properties.”