As unprecedented natural disasters ravage the United States, as federal climate finance commitments lag behind, the Massachusetts legislature is poised to make a statewide pledge in support global climate initiatives. A bill that passes through the Massachusetts House and Senate could make the state the first in the country to legislate in favor of international climate finance, that is, the transfer of money to countries to low income so they can reduce their carbon emissions and respond. the threats of climate change.
The legislation would create a voluntary levy option allowing Massachusetts residents to donate through their annual tax returns to the Least Developed Countries Fund, a multilateral fund established in 2001 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to help low-income countries adapt to the climate crisis.
The Biden administration’s commitments to the Green Climate Fund, another multilateral vehicle established by the United Nations in 2010 to fund projects in low-income countries, fall far short of what campaigners believe is necessary for the United States to pay its fair share and face the scale of the global threat. While Biden has vowed to restore trust between international partners in the wake of the Trump presidency, climate advocates say much more funding is needed.
“I think it’s very important that states step up, âsaid bill sponsor Tony Cabral, a Democratic representative from the United States. 13e Bristol District in Massachusetts who served for 30 years.
Supporters say the bill can help elevate the often overlooked climate justice issue and its impact on vulnerable countries that typically receive little attention. The Least Developed Countries Fund and the Green Climate Fund both serve the Paris Agreement, adopted by the United States and other major countries in 2015, but they are separate entities, and any income collected for the former would not count toward the U.S. government’s commitments to the latter.
“One of the goals is to lead by example, âsaid Lauren Stuart, Climate Change Policy Advisor at Oxfam America. “Ultimately, realistically, this legislation is unlikely to make a ton of money – Massachusetts is not a huge state – but the idea is that with any luck it can spur others on. States to take action and collectively if we can get more States to implement this then it can lead to much larger contributions. “
Repairing climate damage
The impetus for legislation has come 2017, when former President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and end US contributions to climate finance. At the time, the country had donated only $1 billion in a $3 billion dollars from the Green Climate Fund he promised to respect from here 2018.
By implementing the new legislation, lawmakers in Massachusetts hope to kickstart the process of kickstarting climate assistance to low-income countries.
“We were really optimistic it was going to pass in the last legislative session, âsaid Stuart. “It is a very simple bill, there is no real opposition, but policy making can be a painfully slow process. The majority of bills introduced never become law and those that often take years to pass, according to Chris Gregory, a lobbyist for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Council, a Boston-based trade group. When Covid-19 Struck, the state’s legislative priorities were immediately upended as lawmakers were overwhelmed with new challenges.
Gregory, who helped push the bill forward at no charge, said one of the challenges advocates initially faced was the fact that the state’s current process for levies on tax returns failed. was not working very well. Massachusetts residents already have six options on their tax returns to help with various causes, but while there is an established process for adding charities to the form, there is no way to remove them, even when groups do not collect money or no longer deserve to receive donations. .
“The lawyers of the [Massachusetts] The Senate said, ‘wait a sec it’s all screwed up, we basically need you to fix it before we take over your bill, âsaid Gregory. “So after the first version, we went back and drafted a mechanism whereby [charitable groups] could be ejected. It took a lot of research and work, but we believe it will work better now on all levels. “
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the first state to introduce a checkbox on its income tax form was Colorado in 1977, which aimed to raise funds for the preservation of non-game and endangered wildlife. Through 2018, there was more 420 State levy programs through 30 United States and Washington DC, with most going to efforts to support military families, health education, disease prevention and children’s groups.
It’s unclear exactly how much money the Massachusetts option could raise for climate finance each year, but Gregory believes it could be in the six digits, and there is room for a service advertisement. more concerted public than previous levy programs have deployed.
The legislation has been referred to the revenue committee, and supporters are waiting for a hearing to be set for the fall. Stuart said they expect a legislative timetable by the end of September with a hearing for their bill, hopefully in a month or two. “We continue to ask for the date set and we have just learned that we will have a lot of time to prepare, âshe said.
While there is no organized resistance to the bill, which promotes a voluntary effort that costs the state nothing, activists say that does not mean its passage is guaranteed, especially since lawmakers still focus on dealing with the influx of federal money from Covid-19 stimulus.
“It should be easy, but the things that should be easy are always the hardest to go through, âsaid Gregory. He added that the state Senate should pass the bill and pass it quickly, but the House, which is both larger and more conservative, is the real challenge.
“People think Massachusetts is a very liberal place, but it’s an extremely conservative place in some ways, and lawmakers don’t like frivolous gestures, âhe said. “So you need to make sure that this is seen as serious business and that the voters want it. “
Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey did not respond to requests for comment on their support for the bill or its passage. When Warren ran for president in 2020, she offered a $100 billion “Green Marshall Plan âto fund projects in developing countries, but the projects would have required countries to purchase US-made energy technology. Projects funded by the Green Climate Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund are not subject to similar restrictions. Markey, who has become a strong supporter of environmental justice, has expressed less of the need for international climate finance, although he introduced a bill earlier this year to support people displaced by climate disasters.
Larry Yu, co-chair of the Boston Subway section of the Climate Reality Project, said his group was working to move the bill forward. “Tactically, we did a few webinars and talked about it in our meetings, âhe said. In these times. “And we used those talking points while chatting with a few targeted lawmakers in the State House. This is not a campaign where our strategy has been to get ten,000 people to show up at the State House. Our approach has been to go before committees.
Yu said he and his fellow activists had no illusions that Massachusetts would somehow compensate for the federal government’s outstanding commitments. “But if we save the livelihoods of one community or the lives of another family, that is powerful, âhe said. “This is a real global climate justice issue that many people have not seriously committed to before. “
Supporters of the bill hope its passage will spur similar legislation across the country. It would not be the first time that States have followed one another in the adoption of pioneering climate reforms, as has happened before in the commitments to be pursued. 100 percentage of clean energy targets and set new emissions standards for construction and transportation.
Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center, a regional climate and energy think tank, said he supports the Massachusetts bill in part because it offers citizens a way to take action direct worldwide.
“It’s symbolic, âadded Gregory. “But sometimes symbols are important.