In a world first, the US state is expected to pass a bill that would allow people to contribute to the Least Developed Countries Fund when filing their taxes
Massachusetts residents will soon be able to directly contribute funding to support some of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world.
A bill expected to be passed by the state legislature soon will allow its citizens to voluntarily donate to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) fund when filing their tax returns.
The fund was created by the UN to help the world’s poorest countries cope with the impacts of climate change. He has funded hundreds of projects worth $1.7 billion.
Absent opposition to the proposal, the bill would make Massachusetts the only subnational jurisdiction where citizens are able to contribute directly to climate finance.
“This is about climate justice on a level that a lot of people haven’t really thought about before,” said Larry Yu, co-chair of the Climate Reality Project Boston Metro chapter, which supports the bill.
“Government bodies at all levels must recognize the huge inequalities of the climate crisis,” he said. Massachusetts has about 17 times more emissions per capita than Bangladesh. “So why shouldn’t the state contribute, especially if federal contributions are lagging behind?”
The idea of subnational actors contributing to climate finance came from across the Atlantic: in Oxford, UK.
Benito Müller, from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and a former adviser to the LDC group of negotiators, has worked on ways to increase the supply of climate finance for developing countries.
“It has become increasingly clear that we need new, innovative sources of contributions to these funds, in addition to traditional donations from national governments,” he told Climate Home.
Funding to help the poorest countries cope with climate impacts and reduce emissions falls far short of what has been promised. The target of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 will not be reached until 2023 and the OECD’s latest assessment of the international supply of climate finance found that only a fifth of the money reaches LDCs .
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Back in Massachusetts, Peter Fox-Penner, director of Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, took up the idea with Democratic Sen. Mike Barrett, who sponsored the bill.
Massachusetts taxpayers already have the opportunity to contribute to six charitable causes when filing their taxes. “But none of the six speak to a real need felt by my constituents and that’s climate change,” Barrett said in a campaign video promoting the bill. “If you think it’s important that there are people living today in countries that will be under water 30 years from now, we would give you the opportunity to contribute to the UN LDC Fund.”
Since only government agencies can contribute directly to the LDC Fund, the money must be collected by the Massachusetts government, which can then pass on contributions to its citizens, at no cost to it.
Proponents of the bill agree the move is more symbolic than likely to raise big bucks.
Dorcas Robinson, of Oxfam America, which campaigned for the bill, said it was “a good first step towards climate justice” and part of an effort to close the funding gap climatic.
“This approach can also educate and engage more people on the need for more ambitious climate action,” she told Climate Home.
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At a time when President Joe Biden’s landmark climate legislation is stalled in Congress and the US administration has allocated just $1 billion in climate finance for 2022 – a far cry from the $11.4 billion a year pledged by Biden – the bill allows Massachusetts citizens to act directly, Robinson added.
While this does not absolve the federal government of its climate obligations, “part of the intent of state action is to help facilitate federal action, to show the federal government that the public supports doing whatever it takes,” Yu added.
The bill could serve as a model for the other 41 states in the United States that have income taxes. The Oxford Climate Policy Group has already engaged with California lawmakers.
“It would also be a powerful example for subnational bodies overseas,” Yu said.