Oxfam’s report Payment Overdue, Fair ways to make polluters across the UK pay for climate justice proposes that those most responsible for emissions and those best able to pay should pay to address climate change. Oxfam recognises that fossil fuel companies and rich individuals “are disproportionately responsible for the climate crisis” but “have been let off with not paying to deal with its consequences.”
The climate crisis is now a reality: its effects range from the UK breaching
40°C for the first time in 2022 to a devastating and ongoing drought in East
Africa, which would not have occurred without global heating. In the UK and
globally, it is people living in poverty who bear the consequences of
inaction. Public finance is a critical lifeline for communities on the frontlines
of the climate crisis, yet we are increasingly looking to dwindling aid
budgets to meet escalating needs. Meanwhile, billionaires amass yet more
wealth and fossil fuel producers post record profits.
These polluters have caused – and continue to cause – irreversible damage
to our planet, and it’s only fair that they pay for the harm caused by their
actions. Fairer taxes on the largest polluters would not only generate
additional finance but could also create financial incentives for them to
reduce their emissions.
The UK is a huge historical emitter. It must take responsibility for this, but
the onus of paying should not be split equally among the public. Those who
have emitted the most and profited while doing so – particularly fossil fuel
producers and wealthy people – should be doing the heavy lifting. This
paper sets out four options to do this.