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A Climate of Fairness: new study analyses environmental taxes from a tax justice perspective

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Guest blog by
Martina Neuwirth
Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC)

The Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s vision is a world where progressive tax policies support people to share in local and global prosperity, access public services and social protection, and benefit from an economy that acts in the interest of people and the environment.

But these tax justice considerations have so far not really entered the policy discourse of environmental finance. At the same time, the urgent need for climate and environmental finance has hardly been taken up in tax and tax justice debates. The Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) therefore decided to commission a study that tries to bridge these two “silos”.

The timing of the report is opportune. Requirements to fulfill commitments assumed under international environmental agreements (UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement) and under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) create a political momentum for the advancement of environmental taxes and environmentally related policies. Environmental taxes can help all countries, but particularly developing countries, deliver on these commitments. They potentially can create a double positive, by bringing about an improved environment while mobilising domestic revenues for the achievement of the SDGs.

“A Climate of Fairness” is a study about environmental taxes and their potential in a developing country context. It is authored by Jacqueline Cottrell, environmental economist, and Tatiana Falcão, tax lawyer and member of the UN Tax Committee’s Subcommittee on environmental taxation.

The study defines an environmental tax as a tax that has both an environmental purpose and effect. Environmentally related taxes, on the other hand, are revenue raisers and only bear an indirect environmental purpose. This might seem to be more of a theoretical distinction but it becomes important when a country’s actions are monitored in connection with its Paris agreement commitments.



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From a legal perspective, report gives guidance on which principles and legal designs should be used if countries want to implement environmental taxes. The report also provides an inventory of environmental and environmentally related taxes, showing what is currently in the tool box for developing countries.

The three dimensions of sustainable developments and the tradeoffs between them are analysed:

  • Environmental effectiveness: analysing whether the tax is capable of leading to an overall reduction in pollution and/or result in reduced consumption of energy or other scarce resources.
  • Direct and indirect social impacts, including gender impacts.
  • Economic and fiscal impacts, including impacts on GDP, international competitiveness, employment, and government revenues.

Along these criteria, chapter two of the report looks into the following country cases in more depth: China, Mexico, Morocco and Vietnam. It also analyses the impact of environmental taxes in low-income countries.

Given the regressive nature of environmental taxes, the question arises whether an environmental tax reform can be implemented in a way that fosters social (and gender) equity. The answer in a nutshell is yes, it can – but in a way that is well designed and carefully implemented.

However, it has to be emphasised that the regressive nature of environmental taxes is only one aspect of inequality associated with environmental policies. There are four dimensions of inequality which are examined in the report. Inequality of (1) exposure to environmental degradation, (2) contributions to pollution, (3) outcomes resulting from environmental taxation and (4) representation in policymaking. The authors therefore highlight that inequality can also result from severe environmental degradation and climate change, both of which are significant obstacles to poverty alleviation.

With respect to environmental taxes, the authors provide evidence that there can indeed be synergies between different policy goals, but tradeoffs between the environmental effectiveness of the tax and other goals, such as fiscal goals and social protection goals, have to be accepted. Environmental taxes thus should be part of a package that mitigates possible negative equity effects by using environmental tax revenues for targeted social welfare schemes and pro-poor investments.

The report provides evidence that environmental taxes can bring about environmental improvement in developing countries, such as emission reductions, cleaner energy generation, and improved recycling rates. They have also the potential to improve fiscal capacity. Because environmental taxes are hard to evade (as they tend to be levied on immobile tax bases), the fiscal governance framework can be bettered by contributing to a framework of improved tax compliance and tax morale.

It is also important to harness popular support for environmental taxes. Publicising the data may be an important tool to do that. Earmarking of a proportion of revenues can also be an important tool to raise awareness, gain popular support, and to ring fence funds for a specific environmental cause.

Furthermore, there is an international dimension. Countries should reach out to other countries adopting similar taxes to work in a coordinated fashion. Cooperation on environmental tax policy will protect countries against loss in competitiveness and may help build a geographic region with heightened environmental protection standards. The report assesses the role of border tax adjustments as a possible measure to enable high environmental tax rates or a high carbon price in particular countries or groups of countries.

The creation of a multilateral, intergovernmental body on environmental taxation under the auspices of the United Nations to address a number of global tax justice issues is further considered by the authors. This would place environmental taxation within a framework of multilateral cooperation.

“It is imperative to get the conceptual frameworks, priorities and standards right, in order to both advise developing countries on the implementation of sound policies, and to assess the extent to which those policies are effective, both from an environmental and social justice perspective. Pollution sees no borders. Let us leave no one behind.” (Executive Summary, p. 9)

The study can be downloaded here.

You find an executive summary of the study here.

Source: Tax Justice Network

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A web of Life for ALL Life

If not now, there is no WHEN

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Helena Norberg-Hodge, Local Futures With Noam Chomsky

What is globalization?  Economic globalization is a process defined by the deregulation of trade and finance in order to enable businesses and banks to operate globally. Since at least the mid-20th century, national governments and international institutions have been nearly unanimous in supporting globalization, often through policies that prop up large transnational corporations to the detriment of small and local businesses. With the help of these policies, a single world market has emerged.

Corporate-funded think tanks and media outlets would have you believe that this global market is characterized by the free flow of ideas and technology, international collaboration, interdependence, and a worldwide sense of community – in other words, that the global market has created a ‘global village’.

But the reality is far different from this rosy picture. Our global economic system has become so large and complex – with producers and consumers, CEOs and workers, and cause and effect all far removed from each other – that ethical choices are almost impossible to make, and environmental and human rights disasters have become commonplace.

It can be challenging to understand the workings of a system that is so vast, out-of-control, and deeply ingrained into the fabric of our daily lives. But by breaking the global economy down into five key structural elements, and understanding how it came to exist in the first place, we can begin to comprehend it – and, ultimately, resist it.

What is localization? Ultimately, economic localization is about re-scaling the economy back to a human level. It is the process of building economic structures which allow the goods and services a community needs to be produced locally and regionally whenever possible. Localizing economies can strengthen community cohesion and lead to greater human health and material wellbeing, all while reducing pollution and degradation of the natural world.

 

 

From community gardens to credit unions, from alternative learning spaces to small business alliances and co-ops, local economies create networks of place-based relationships that affirm our human desire for connection to each other and to the earth. By creating this structural basis for community, local economies make caring for one another and for the land into guiding principles of daily life.

An important point to note is that localization does not mean total isolation. It isn’t about eliminating all trade; communities can still export surpluses once local needs are met, and they can still import goods that can’t be produced locally. But localization allows local, regional, and even national self-reliance to replace dependence on distant, unaccountable corporations.

Localized economies are created by and for the people who live there. Rather than subscribing to a global monocultural model, localized economies respect local cultures and needs, while allowing for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas across borders. In fact, localization requires international cooperation and collaboration to address global problems like climate change, and to forge agreements to scale back the rapacious power of global corporations and banks.

Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy and international development on local communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts.

Helena is the founder and director of Local Futures and The International Alliance for Localization (IAL). Based in the USA and UK, with subsidiaries in Germany and Australia, Local Futures examines the root causes of our current social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living in both North and South. Helena is also a founding member of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, the International Forum on Globalization and the Global Ecovillage Network.

Helena’s seminal book, Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, has been described as “an inspirational classic,” providing insightful solutions to the unintended impacts of development, based on her decades living and working in Ladakh, India. Together with the film of the same title, it has been translated into more than 40 languages, and sold about half a million copies.
Her most recent book, Local is Our Future: Steps to an Economics of Happiness, outlines how a systemic economic shift from global to local can address the world’s social, economic, ecological and spiritual crises. It has been described by author David Korten as “a must-read book for our time”. Helena is also the producer and co-director of the award-winning film The Economics of Happiness, and the co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.

The Earth Journal counted Helena among the world’s ‘ten most interesting environmentalists’, while in Carl McDaniel’s book Wisdom for a Liveable Planet, she was profiled as one of ‘eight visionaries changing the world’.

Helena has lectured in seven languages and appeared in broadcast, print and online media worldwide, including MSNBC, The London Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. She has written numerous articles and essays, and her work has been the subject of more than 300 articles worldwide.

Educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England and the United States, Helena specialized in linguistics, including studies at the University of London and at MIT. Since 1975, she has worked with the people of Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”, to find ways of enabling their culture to meet the modern world without sacrificing social and ecological values. For these efforts she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. She was awarded the prestigious Goi Peace Prize in 2012.

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Editorials

Everything Connects

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For the sake of planetary and personal health, business will have to change.

Special Presentation: Sarah Savory

Our existing systems of media and education provide a limited worldview. This reductionist worldview limits our ability to see and exist in the world properly, effectively and in total health.

For us to truly thrive as a species in harmony with the natural world, we will need to see the world as ONE LIVING BREATHING ORGANISM, and our part and place in the world as a part of this organism.  This will require a shift in our thinking, in our action and in the ways we make our decisions.  This very forward-thinking conversation will clearly identify where we are at, how we arrived at this point, what needs to happen, how we get there, what are the obstacles and how will we overcome these obstacles.  And yes, business will have to change.

As Bucky Fuller said: “Nature is a totally efficient, self-regenerating system. If we discover the laws that govern this system and live synergistically within them, sustainability will follow and humankind will be a success.”

But humans don’t know how to manage the complexities of our world. The increasing social, economic, and ecological disasters we are experiencing across the world are the mounting symptoms of our not considering the whole and managing our societies, economies, and nature in isolation of each other when they are an inseparable whole – no person or nation on earth can have physical or financial stability without ecological health.

Sarah Savory has worked alongside her father, Allan Savory who created the Holistic Management Framework. In this exhilarating conversation, we’ll discover a new and improved decision-making process to enable us to manage and balance the inseparable complexity of human societies, economies, and nature. Remember, we’re all in this together

Sarah Savory

Sarah Savory is the single mother of 2 young children, Luke and Mika. She is the youngest daughter of Allan Savory, world-renowned ecologist and developer of Holistic Management (a decision making process which successfully guides us through the complexity we manage by ensuring simultaneously socially, financially and ecologically sound decisions.)
Sarah is following closely in his footsteps and has become a very successful Holistic Management Consultant and Educator in her own right.
In an effort to simplify the framework, she has written illustrated, educational children’s books on Holistic Management and has also broken new ground by teaching HM as a subject in Zimbabwean schools, with demand for education and educational materials growing rapidly and is now writing the first school curriculum for Holistic Decision Making and Ecological Literacy to be taught as a subject in schools.
She is a part of Africa Centre For Holistic Management’s new training and education team and she is part of a new, global policy task force which is focusing on breaking through in government policy. Sarah and her father recently met with President Mnangagwa to begin talks about working with the Zimbabwean government to develop the first ever agricultural policy using the Holistic Management Framework.
Sarah spends the rest of her time writing articles, giving presentations and being interviewed both locally and internationally.
A personal note from Sarah to our youth – you are the key to the future:
Holistic Management involves introducing people to new scientific insights that will not only help them to better understand the incredibly complex social, economic and ecological connections in nature and how earth’s ecosystems function, but teach a new way of managing which makes sure our decisions flow with the unpredictable, ever-present and constantly changing variables of that complexity.
Managers learn how to make decisions or develop polices in a way that guarantees they never lose sight of the whole picture and the fact that our physical and financial security and stability are intricately connected and entirely dependent on the health of our environment – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any nation is one based on healthy soil and the plant’s ability to turn the sun’s energy into food because everything we use or consume comes from the land.
When it comes to making a change and adapting to new knowledge and thinking, history shows us that most adults and institutions are almost incapable of it. I truly believe the key to the future lies in educating our children, rather than pinning all our hopes on the possibility of “old dogs learning new tricks.”
Let’s give young people the solutions and show them how vital it is to look at the whole picture and to focus on and address root causes instead of symptoms.
If we can have school leavers going off into the world ecologically literate and capable of successfully managing and balancing the unavoidable social, financial and ecological dimensions of their decisions, rather than being stuck as we are now, on a hamster wheel reacting or adapting to the inevitable and increasing symptoms of our current management, they will be proactively making decisions in a new way that will bring about the physical and financial stability we all want, reversing the current problems and preventing any more knock-on symptoms further down the line. When we do that, it will change everything.

Related Stories:

Barry Dossenko interview with Allan Savory

Allan Savory: How to effect meaningful transformation to address the global climate crisis.

For a healthier planet, management must change

 

https://mobilized.news/a-timely-message-for-world-leaders-from-holistic-management-pioneer-allan-savory-of-savory-global/

 

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Mobilized World Summit

How re-imagining education empowers imagination

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We will discuss  how to reset our anthropocentric Being-ness to Nature-centric Being-ness. It is clear that we have been turned into human knowings instead of human beings through the kind of education we have been subjected to. As we are taught the written word (the description) instead of the real world our cognitive system rewires to understand what is absent and also numbs our senses.

This activates ‘imaginary’ imagination instead of real imagination. The biggest damage to education is that from childhood we are exposed to the known and it destroys our ability to engage with the unknown.

We will discuss how to address your cognitive damages, re awaken your natural cognitive system and dare to step into the realm of the unknown.

 

Jinan Kodapully, EK Foundation, India

Jinan considers himself a victim of modernity, cognitively rewired to understand the written word instead of the real world. As a cognition activist, his basic concern has been to explore the cognitive crisis of modern humans who with their so-called education have become anthropocentric and turned against life itself. He considers cognitive rights as the most fundamental of existential rights which modern society brutally takes away right from childhood.

His exploration began with issues related to decolonization, especially of the aesthetic sense. His life with non-literate communities helped him to expand this exploration to include knowledge creation, “do nothing parenting”, and shifting the focus from sociological aspects to the biological roots of cognition and the formation of our sense of beauty.

His understanding further sharpened and clarified once he stopped reading — this helped him regain his biologically rooted cognitive system which is what all non-literate people have been using through eons. Another fundamental shift that brought in more clarity was shifting his enquiry from how to teach children to how do children learn. This question revealed the connection between our biological potential and what the context dictates — between the world and the word. This also revealed the falsity of using language as the primary cognitive source and the danger of solely engaging with ready made knowledge. This alienates humans from the living nature of the learning process and undermines children as creators of knowledge.

Currently, Jinan is involved in enabling people to explore and experientially recover their natural cognitive system damaged by schooling. The aim is to sensitize adults so they can provide the most conducive environment for their children to unfold naturally to their true potential.

Jinan has also been exploring ways to make the educated understand the matrix built by modernity in general and the damages caused by modern schooling in particular. He hopes to enable people to experientially understand the limits of language, reason, reading, etc and to empower them to address the maladaptive cognitive habits and attitudes.

 

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