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Climate Advocates Sound Alarm Over Africa's Global Carbon Tax Proposal

FILE - Chimneys from the Shell oil company release gases on the outskirts of the city of Durban, South Africa on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

WASHINGTON — Climate advocates have welcomed proposals by African leaders for a global carbon tax in a bid to tackle the impact of climate change in Africa, but they urge corporations to avoid passing the tax burden to consumers.

At the just-ended Africa Climate Summit held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, leaders demanded that major polluters pay less wealthy nations for the damage they cause.

The declaration also noted a 14-year-old unfulfilled pledge of $100 billion annually to developing nations in climate finance.

The leaders are expected to take that proposal to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this year.

Fati N’Zi Hassane, Africa director for Oxfam International, told VOA that a global carbon tax is worth exploring, but said measures are needed to ensure that corporations do not hike their prices to make up for the taxes.

"This is the first time such a solution has been brought into such spaces, and such solutions have to be thought through very carefully — the discussion needs to be more inclusive," she said. "We feel that calling for such a solution is to make ensure that polluters start paying, because this is what we have been calling for."

N’Zi Hassane stressed the importance of considering those severely impacted by the climate crisis, particularly women and children, to prevent them from facing additional challenges.

The United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, estimates that 80% of people displaced by climate change worldwide are women.

"We need to be careful here because such measures (carbon global tax proposal) could affect the price of products and services, and at the end of the day, the people will pay the price," she said.

N’Zi Hassane said Africa, which represents 17% of the global population and produces only 4% of the global carbon emission, bears the unfair burden of climate change effects.

She says consensus among the leaders for a proposed carbon global tax, including discussions around calls for debt restructuring and relief for African states, along with the development of a new global climate finance charter by 2025, are notable successes of the summit.

"We feel that these are some of the positive outcomes."

East Africa is one of the world’s regions hardest hit by climate change with extreme weather conditions leading to extreme hunger, even as the region contributes nothing to global carbon emissions.

In Oxfam's latest report "Unfair Share: Unequal climate finance to East Africa’s hunger crisis," revealed Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan lost approximately $7.4 billion worth of livestock alone between 2021 and 2023 due to climate change.

"The climate injustice we’re seeing before our very eyes in the Horn of Africa, for example, has left 31.5 million people in the brink of famine," N’Zi Hassane said.

"Yet, this region has been promised billions of dollars but only a small portion — $2.4 billion of the $53.5 billion — that were supposed to flow into the region to fight the effect of climate change, have been reached," she added.

Saliem Fakir, executive director at the African Climate Foundation, says that the economic agenda linked to development and the climate crisis is a "very important pivot" that would "remain the basis for future summits."

Fakir says, however, the focus should not be on carbon markets as they are not the continent's top priority for providing immediate relief to those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

"New forms of carbon credits, carbon markets have the risk of actually displacing the fundamental and basic issue that has to be addressed, which is really around economic development," he said.

While the summit organizers emphasized market-based solutions like carbon credits to facilitate affordable borrowing for states, Fakir is urging increased political diplomacy and the ability of African leaders and stakeholders to influence solutions to the climate crisis.