22 September 2017

UN Environment Chief calls for polluters to pay for environmental damage- not taxpayers

The Executive Director of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, argued that costs from environmental degradation should be incorporated in the polluter companies’ accounts, and not transferred to consumers as extra costs.

Erik Solheim addressed the issue when he appeared on the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University on Monday.

He said: “The profit of destroying nature or polluting the planet is nearly always privatized, while the costs of polluting the planet or the cost of destroying ecosystems is nearly always socialized”.

“That cannot continue. Anyone who pollutes, anyone who destroys nature must pay the cost for that destruction or that pollution”.

Although a ‘decoupling’ of economic development and environmental degradation is already happening in many countries, the World Health Organization has recently linked 25 percent of all deaths to pollution, which leads to cancer, heart attacks and respiratory problems.

As reported by EcoWatch, the Guardian had recently published an opinion article from Peter C. Frumhoff, Director of Science and Policy and climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) and Myles Allen, professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, addressing the same issue.

They argue that oil companies, which allegedly knew about the effects that the over combustion of fossil fuels would have on the greenhouse effect, should bear the cost of damages caused by extreme weather events and sea rising levels.

The two scientists had said: “Using a simple, well-established climate model, our study for the first time quantifies the amount of sea level rise and increase in global surface temperatures that can be traced to the emissions from specific fossil fuel companies”.

“Strikingly, nearly 30 per cent of the rise in global sea level between 1880 and 2010 resulted from emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers”.

“More than 6 percent of the rise in global sea level resulted from emissions traced to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, the three largest contributors”.

Mr. Solheim also mentioned the role that businesses must play by creating new technologies to address environmental degradation and climate change problems.

China and India were pointed out as great examples, highlighting the progress that has been made in the energy and transportation sectors while boosting their local economies.

He added: “Change is happening”.

“Economic-wise, we are on the right track, but we need to speed up because the challenge is so big”. 

Eric Solheim will be speaking during the Sustainable Innovation Forum in the Scaling Finance for Climate Commitments: Unlocking private capital to scale up sustainable solutions panel. For more information and to register, click here

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