Will Corporations Pay Damages for Climate Change?

October 3, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

AP photo



Zeeshan A. Shah


Fossil Fuels are Killers. Over 63 % of the world’s emissions have happened because of 5 major corporations, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.


The result is the Climate Change we feel today. This change is not based on fallacy and rhetoric but is the major cause of concern for the poorest and most vulnerable populations resulting in loss and damage beyond average proportions.

In 2015, Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6000 people, left 4 million homeless and caused over 2 billion dollars worth of damage. Corporations who have been making profits selling fossil fuels should pay a levy so that poor countries have funds to deal with such impacts. What is going to motivate those companies to agree to this? Will they pay for damages?

Elsewhere, environmental scientists in cooperation with Argentina’s Universal Ecological Fund released a report stating global warming will breach a 2-degrees Celsius threshold by 2050 unless governments double their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have forecast more severe heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels due to global warming, warning of mass migration and environmental catastrophes as a consequence. The Industrial Revolution is the heaviest price to pay for human beings globally.

As the Paris Motor Show opens, it’s the Paris climate accord on the minds of Germany’s Greens. They are calling for a stop to all new petrol and diesel cars in Germany starting in 2030. This will accelerate the German car industry’s transition away from fossil fuels and towards CO2-free motoring. Yet the industry does not approve. Global warming is going to surpass dangerous levels despite the Paris Accord on Climate Change Policy. The German government in Berlin currently aims to bring 1 million electric cars onto the roads by 2020, and 6 million by 2030 – in a country with roughly 45 million cars. Germany, home to some of the world’s most prolific carmakers in Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Opel, Porsche and VW, has been slow to embrace e-mobility.

Brazil has followed the US and China as the third-largest emitting country to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. Major emitters Russia, India, Japan and Germany have still to sign up to the accord. Brazil emits about 2.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, according to data from the United Nations. Some may argue differently but the fact remains that the Corporations must pay – is an obligation to every state government that represents that company. The Public has the right to breathe. Country governments have to take on these corporations.

Fossil fuels and carbon emissions have extreme deadly impacts for the human environment. According to the recent report by WHO- “Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease,” released in Geneva, it has been highlighted that Air Pollution is getting worse in many regions. The study shows 92 percent of the world’s people breathe outdoor air that’s polluted beyond levels deemed acceptable under WHO guidelines. Outdoor air pollution from sources like particulate exhaust from vehicles, coal-fired power stations, or forests burning, poses health risks to the overwhelming majority of human beings worldwide. Indoor air pollution poses additional risks. This can be caused by dirty outdoor air entering a house, but also by dirty cook stoves, wood or unprocessed coal burned for heating or cooking, or kerosene and diesel fuels. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths – nearly 12 percent of all global deaths – were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. The cause of death for one in nine people who died was related to the effects of air pollution. This is yet another high category risk that impacts nations today.

There is a public health emergency around the globe. Nearly 90 percent of deaths related to air pollution occur in low and middle income countries, with nearly two-thirds occurring in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Of these deaths, 94 percent are due to non communicable diseases – notably cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Aside from increasing mortality, air pollution also increases the risk of acute respiratory infections. Small but dangerous particles in the air – sulfur nitrate and black carbon include various toxic chemicals attached into it, as well as toxic metals and inorganic salts. Black carbon suspended in the air serves as a system of delivery for dangerous chemicals to reach inside the lungs and the bloodstream leading to heart disease and lung cancer.

All this is happening yet there is no action taken on the source – the Capitalistic corporate regimes that deliver the poison over profits they collect and have been for decades. In Australia for example, there is climate change and its impact is being felt but the government does not do much about it. The present government is trying to repeal good climate change legislation but is too close to the fossil fuel industry.

What makes this industry invincible? Money controls power. Yet more than 60 environmentalist organizations are calling for a tax on fossil fuel extraction that would see energy giants pay compensation to countries impacted by climate change. The ‘Carbon-levy Project Declaration proposes that a global fossil fuel extraction levy be established and paid to the international Loss and Damage Mechanism. This funding would be used to assist the poorest and most vulnerable communities suffering the worst impacts of climate change. It further goes to state that fossil fuel companies are accountable for around 70% of present day global warming.

Big gas and oil companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil,, BP, Gazprom and Shell have received more than $5 trillion in subsidies yet are failing to offer up what is needed to bridge the gap in climate finance. Further shocking findings indicate even if strong mitigation and adaptation pledges are put in place, the residual cost of climate change could reach $275 trn by 2200 across the globe. For Africa alone, damages could reach $100 bn annually by 2050, even if global warming is limited to two degrees. Major funding from international Development Banks and the Private sector will be needed to ensure effective combat of this problem. The World Bank recently announced it would increase funding to poorer countries coping with climate change from 21% to 28%.while the European Investment Bank (EIB) will increase its climate support from 25% to 35%.

By the year 2040, renewables will finally have won the global energy race. The prices of coal and gas will have dropped significantly, but this will not derail the de-carbonization of our energy systems. On 12 December, the Paris Accord was the world’s first universal, legally-binding deal to tackle climate change; setting out a long-term emissions reduction goal of keeping the global temperature increase “well below 2C”, while pursuing efforts to limit the rise to 1.5C. This April in New York, over 170 country leaders came together to ratify it. Yet, it is not that simple. The Paris Agreement is a two-step process: countries must first sign the Agreement, and then indicate their consent to join and be legally bound by it. The ratification signatures of at least 55 countries – representing more than 55% of global carbon emissions – are required for the deal to formally apply from 2020.

Will that be enough? Will the laws apply across the board or will politics prevail? It is high time that the human lives are taken as priority over financial interests of global corporations that are bound to get greedier every passing year unless stern laws govern them to tighter control and accountability.









Zeeshan A. Shah

The writer is a Director at CNNA Pakistan – a leading advocacy institute and is an expert on International Relations and Education Policy.

With over 150 publications in major local and global social media & newspapers, he has been instrumental in producing over 5000 radio broadcasts aired globally.

A thought leader, environmental journalist, media broadcaster and a change maker with an acute focus on development affairs & education for Pakistan.



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