MA State Senator Barrett introduces bill to create voluntary checkoff on state tax returns to help most vulnerable countries cope with climate change

S2056: An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Sponsor: MA State Senator Mike Barrett

In an effort to see the passage of this groundbreaking piece of legislation, the Institute for Sustainable Energy leads the Coalition for the Massachusetts Least Developed Countries Fund, which includes Barbara Kates-Garnick (Center for International Environment and Resources Policy, The Fletcher School at Tufts University), Benito Müller (Director, Oxford Climate Policy & Professor, University of Oxford),  Heather Coleman (Climate and Energy Director, Oxfam America), David Robinson (President, David Robinson & Associates).

Bill S2056: An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the United Nations Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change creates a checkoff option on the Massachusetts state tax return form that allows voluntary individual contributions of flexible amounts to the UN Least Developed Countries Fund. The essential features of the bill are:

  1. Helps the Most Vulnerable to Climate Impacts. All funds collected via this bill will go directly to a special United Nations fund singularly focused on helping the people and communities who are the most susceptible to the effects of climate change and who have the fewest resources to adapt and protect themselves. This fund has strong oversight so there is assurance that the monies collected flow directly to those most in need of assistance.
  2. Encourages Citizen Participation and is a Call to Action. This innovative approach is voluntary, allowing individuals to choose their own levels of contribution. This demonstrates citizens’ awareness of the global impact of climate change and provides an easily accessible opportunity to make a measurable difference in the lives of those most affected.
  3. Allows Massachusetts to Demonstrate Global Leadership. By setting this unique and innovative example, Massachusetts will instantly be recognized as a leader in the global fight against climate change. Largely unprecedented, this integration of state and international affairs will serve as a powerful indication of public support, and will be the benchmark for further action by other subnational entities, domestically and abroad.
  4. Has No State Costs. There are no programmatic or net administrative costs to the state or mandates upon citizens – the program is entirely voluntary

Click here to read the full text of the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) bill introduced by Senator Barrett.

Click here to view the MA Resident Income Tax Return form.  The change proposed by bill S2056 would add a voluntary fund contribution option to the list that currently appears on page three, section 33.

For more information contact:  Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy, iseinfo@bu.edu, 617-358-6248, or Senator Mike Barrett’s office at 617-722-1572.

The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) is a leading source of funding to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries. The United States is currently its third highest funder[1]. As a leader amongst states with international vision and home to global citizens, Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to pioneer a state-sourced companion to the LDCF. Largely unprecedented, the integration of state and international affairs will serve as a powerful indication of public support and an example to other states.

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are the 49 poorest nations in the world, with the majority in Africa and Asia. They are especially vulnerable to climate change because they are in areas prone to hurricanes and droughts, but they have the least resources to confront these disasters. The heavy use of fossil fuels by the world’s wealthiest countries is directly worsening the impacts of climate instability, and being a contributor to address their needs would make Massachusetts a world leader.

LDCs are already suffering the consequences of climate change on human health, poverty, food security, and natural disasters, despite having contributed less than one percent of the global emissions that created this problem. In Massachusetts, carbon dioxide emissions have reduced in recent years, but residents have contributed to global accumulation of greenhouse gases.[2]  Support for the poorest nations in coping with the devastating impacts of climate change should be part of Massachusetts’ broader efforts to cope with climate impacts at home and reduce our own carbon footprint.

Climate change has already claimed millions of lives in LDCs as a result of food shortages, public health crises, and increasingly intense natural disasters. Residents in LDCs are five times more likely to die from climate-related disasters than other citizens of the globe[3]. As an example, the East African drought of 2011 – the worst one the region has seen in 60 years – claimed the lives of 50-100,000 people, more than half of whom were children under 5.[4] As the frequency and intensity of these disasters are expected to soar in the near future, LDC’s will continue to bear the heaviest burden of climate fatalities. More than 100 million people are expected to die as a result of climate change by 2030 if present trends continue, with more than 90% of these deaths concentrated in LDCs. According to the international panel of hundreds of top scientists, approximately 75-250 million people in Africa will be without adequate water by 2020 as a result of climate change.[5] Food shortages are also already occurring and are expected to intensify; crop productivity is predicted to decline by about 50%. In Asia, rising temperatures could result in food shortages for 130 million people. The World Bank reports that climate change could result in more than 100 million additional people living in poverty by 2030[6] as a result of the natural disasters, food insecurity, water scarcity, and health impacts of the shifting climate. Displacement, death, loss of livelihood, disease, and the interruption of economic development are all consequences of a warmer, more intense, and less predictable climate. LDCs are the least equipped to adapt to these changes, and yet they are subject to the worst of them. Outside support will be crucial in determining whether these dystopian scenarios come to pass or are avoided.

At the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in 2001, the countries of the world agreed to establish the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDC Fund) to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries’ to better cope with natural disasters and make their societies more resilient. Summing up the early assessments suggested $3 billion was needed for this purpose. Many co-benefits come from LDC Fund investments, including the avoidance of waves of refugees fleeing droughts, flooding, famine and the political conflicts that can result. However a dozen years later, less than half that amount had been pledged by developed countries, and even less had actually been provided. This has left the LDC Fund with a pipeline of approved but long-unfunded projects. Compounding this problem is that developed countries have chosen to send most of their climate financing through the Green Climate Fund, a newer financing mechanism that funds a broader range of climate projects to a wider range of countries. Because it is slow in getting underway, the Green Climate Fund has struggled to disburse funds meant for adaptation in vulnerable countries; meanwhile, the older, more streamlined Least Developed Country Fund remains drastically underfunded.

The Least Developed Countries are already feeling the first and worst impacts of climate change; without the financial support that the United States has promised, these countries will suffer disproportionately from fatalities, food and water shortages, and public health crises. By taking the step of establishing its own mechanism to make contributions to the world’s most vulnerable nations now, Massachusetts is sending a message to our international partners that this country is not abandoning them, and will be ready at the next change of government to restore our commitment to just action. These are our political allies, our brothers and sisters, who would prefer to stay where they are rather than become refugees on the high seas. There are moral, political, economic and practical reasons to act.

Public Letters of Support

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa

LDC Group Chair, Gebru Jember

Official Endorsements by:

Union of Concerned Scientists (Kenneth Kimmell, President) www.ucsusa.org

Acadia Center (Dan Sosland, President) www.acadiacenter.org

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Patricia Espinosa, Climate Change Secretariat) www.unfccc.int/2860.php

Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter (Emily Norton, Chapter Director) www.sierraclub.org/massachusetts

Institute for Sustainable Energy, Boston University (Peter Fox-Penner, Director) www.bu.edu/ise/

Oxford Climate Policy, University of Oxford (Benito Müller, Director) www.oxfordclimatepolicy.org

Oxfam America (Heather Coleman, Climate and Energy Director) www.oxfamamerica.org

David Robinson & Associates (David Robinson, President) http://www.davidrobinsonassociates.com/

The Climate and Development Lab at Brown University (Timmons Roberts, Director) www.climatedevlab.brown.edu

E4TheFuture (Stephen Cowell, President) www.e4thefuture.org

Friends of the Earth U.S. (Karen Orenstein, Deputy Director of Economic Policy)  www.foe.org

EcoEquity (Tom Athanasiou, Executive Director) www.ecoequity.org

Earth Action, Inc. (Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director) www.earthaction.org

Citizens Awareness Network (Deb Katz, Executive Director) www.nukebusters.org

Climate Action Business Association (Michael Green, Executive Director) www.cabaus.org

Alan Solomont, Former US Ambassador to Spain and Andorra

David O’Connor, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Energy Resources

Barbara Kates-Garnick, Former Undersecretary of Energy for Massachusetts

Dr. David Cash, Former Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection and Commissioner, Department of Public Utilities

Media Spotlights

Commonwealth Magazine – MA should finance climate change abroad

Brookings – Trump dumps Paris: Now what?

Climate Change News – US cities and states back Paris deal but ignore climate finance

Climate Change News – If US states are really “still in” Paris, here’s what they need to do

Oxford Climate Policy Blog – A Day in Agadir: sub-national contributions to multilateral climate finance (seventh paragraph talks about MA State Senator Mike Barrett)

 LDC countries image

Prepared by J. Timmons Roberts and co-authored by Austen Sharpe, Caroline Jones, Kai Salem, Quinn Bernier, Thomas Culver and Jonathan Gewirtzman, from Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab, for public dissemination regarding the Massachusetts Least Developed Countries Fund. March 12, 2017.

[1] Climate Funds Update: The Latest Information on Climate Funds; http://www.climatefundsupdate.org/listing/least-developed-countries-fund

Image Source: http://unctad.org/en/Pages/ALDC/Least%20Developed%20Countries/LDC-Map.aspx

[2]http://www.mass.gov/eea/air-water-climate-change/climate-change/massachusetts-global-warming-solutions-act/ma-ghg-emission-trends/

[3] “A Burden to Share? Addressing Unequal Climate Impacts in the Least Developed Countries.” Science 201.4357 (2013): 694-95.

[4] “A Burden to Share? Addressing Unequal Climate Impacts in the Least Developed Countries.” Science 201.4357 (2013): 694-95.

[5] “The Health Effects Of Global Warming: Developing Countries Are The Most Vulnerable | UN Chronicle.” United Nations. United Nations, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

[6] “Rapid, Climate-Informed Development Needed to Keep Climate Change from Pushing More than 100 Million People into Poverty by 2030.” World Bank.