Legalbrief, 19 March, 2019
It is not just climate change that threatens our survival, but resource extraction and pollution, a major conference heard last week, writes Legalbrief. Thousands of delegates, business leaders and campaigners gathered at the five-day 4th UN Environment Assembly, the top annual forum on the planet’s environmental crisis, held in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the many human-induced perils facing the world.
The conference started on a sombre note after an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 on board, many of whom were heading to the event.
The International Resource Panel, a United Nations science advisory group that provides expert advice on the use of natural resources and environmental impacts, urged delegates to implement a universal carbon tax equivalent to $15 a ton by 2020, rising to at least $100 per ton by 2030. According to a Daily Maverick report, speaking at the assembly, former Swiss environment head Professor Bruno Oberle said carbon taxes were controversial — but now unavoidable. ‘Will we go bankrupt and have our economies destroyed because of carbon taxes? The answer is No,’ said Oberle, arguing that it was still possible for countries to grow their economies if carbon tax revenues were directed into schemes such as better public transport, green electricity or less wasteful use of natural resources.
Oberle’s panel of more than 40 scientists suggested that the extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food now account for close to 50% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. ‘These results illustrate thatresources need to be put at the centre of climate and biodiversity policies, so as to stay within a safe operating space,’ the panel said. Listing SA among the Top 10 net exporter of materials (along with Australia, Russia and Brazil), the report draws special attention to the increasing trend by richer nations to ‘outsource’ their greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts to poorer nations.