MA Taxpayers Could Get An Opportunity to Become Global Leaders of Climate Action

On Tuesday, October 31, the Joint Committee on Revenue at the Massachusetts State House heard a proposal for a new bill on climate change action. Through a voluntary check-off option, Senate Bill 2056 will allow Massachusetts residents to donate a portion of their tax returns to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 

As of 2016, there are six causes that residents have a check-off option for, including Endangered Wildlife Conservation, Mass. Military Family Relief Fund, Massachusetts AIDS program among others and the LDCF check-off will be the seventh.

The bill was presented by Sen. Michael Barrett, a State Senator for nine Massachusetts communities and Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Energy. He was joined by members of the Coalition for the Massachusetts Least Developed Countries Fund, an advocacy group of organizations and individuals, including Barbara Kates-Garnick,  Former Undersecretary of Energy Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Peter Fox-Penner of the Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy; David Cash, Former Commissioner of Massachusetts’ Departments of Environmental Protection & Public Utilities among others.

“I’ve seen a sense of commonality among the people in my neighborhoods and that commonality is the passion to help people in need,” said Sen. Barrett, while testifying. The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help adapt to the effects of climate change in the world’s 48 least developed countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“Earlier this year, extreme monsoon rains triggered unprecedented flooding in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, claiming more than 1,200 lives and impacting 40 million people… We’re in the midst of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” said Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam America, indicating the impact of climate change on vulnerable countries.

“This is a problem that poor people did not create. Climate change is a crisis largely caused by the wealthiest nations in the world, and specifically, their wealthiest citizens,” said Maxman. According to Oxfam’s estimates, the world’s richest ten percent produce over fifty-percent of global carbon emissions, while the poorest 3.5 billion account for just one-tenth. “This is climate injustice. This is why we – as citizens of the wealthiest country in the world – must step up and lead,” she said.

This bill, S.2056, was introduced in light of the recent announcement by President Trump, on his intention of withdrawing U.S. participation from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement by 2020, which ensures a commitment from developed countries to support climate change mitigation efforts in developing countries.

The decision to withdraw was met with immediate resistance from subnational groups within the U.S., which comprise people from the state, city, corporations, as well as non-state organizations. These subnational groups, as a response to President Trump’s decision, declared their support for the Paris agreement by continuing to pledge cuts in emission rates of greenhouse gases at a state and regional level through the United Nation’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal. This new approach to climate change finance has been presented to the world for the first time by the Paris Agreement, almost creating a “backdoor” for the U.S. States to participate in international climate finance and mitigation efforts without actually needing federal support.

Courtney Hinkle of Oxfam America, although, adds to this by saying that S.2056 and possible future efforts by other states or cities, in no way replaces or offsets the responsibility of the federal government. “The likely funds raised by this bill will certainly not equal the billions previously pledged towards climate finance, but in this time of uncertainty under the Trump presidency, it is critical that we act,” she said.

“This bill allows Massachusetts to demonstrate global leadership,” said Dr. Adil Najam, Dean of Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, in his testimony. “It’s a great opportunity to bring global and local change together. As a proud resident of Massachusetts I can say that if passed, this bill will be known as the “Massachusetts model” and will be followed by citizens of others states,” he added.

Sen. Barrett stressed on the administrative aspects of the bill by indicating that through his background research, this bill would practically have zero administrative cost and the World Bank is the Trustee of the LDCF, Massachusetts taxpayers can be assured that the money going into the Fund will reach the right people in need. “[Through this bill] We are striking a common chord regardless of where your political interests lie,” he added, referring to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s support of the Paris Agreement as well as the collective inclination of the people of his constituencies.

Dr. Najam also paints a larger picture with the problem of climate change by talking about its impacts on not just the least developed countries, but the rest of the world too. “Just like a molecule of carbon from my car does not need a visa to go to another country, the impacts of global climate change will not need a visa to move to come back and bite us. Those impacts, even if they happen very far away, will find a way to travel the world,” he said.

by Samata Joshi

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