19 October 2019

Pave Way For Carbon Taxation as Major Global Trend, Secretary-General Urges Finance Ministers’ Climate Meeting, Noting Emissions’ Pricing Raised $44 Billion in 2018

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the ministerial meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, in Washington, D.C., today:

I am encouraged that this coalition, launched just six months ago, now has 44 members.  Your efforts, under co-chairs Chile and Finland and with the support of the World Bank, are a vital part of our response to the climate emergency.

We are at a turning point.  Last month’s Climate Action Summit showed that the world is waking up to the crisis.  Leaders, businesses and others stepped up in impressive ways.

Looking ahead, I see great opportunities:  to reduce air pollution, averting illnesses that kill 7 million people every year; to save hundreds of billions each year spent on climate-related natural disasters; and to unlock the economic benefits of the green economy — more than $20 trillion between now and 2030 — through policies that create market certainty and stimulate job growth.

At the same time, as emissions increase and temperatures rise, the consequences are set to get much worse.  And we face a glaring gap in ambition and finance. 

As Finance Ministers, you can turn the tide and move the markets.  You have committed to the Helsinki Principles — an effort to use public finance and fiscal policy to advance national climate action.  Now we must ask where we want to be by the end of 2020, by 2030 and decades from now.

Science has given us a clear timeline:  to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century, we need to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

These objectives must be reflected in enhanced nationally determined contributions by next year.  Ministers for Finance have a key role to play in making this possible.

You come to the table with a mix of tools, including tax policy, controlled spending and climate budgeting.  You can influence procurement rules and create an enabling environment for green infrastructure and other investments in adaptation and resilience.  And you can end counterproductive subsidies for fossil fuels and pave the way for what I would like to see as a major global trend:  shifting taxation from income to carbon.

Many of you are already making good use of such means and reaping visible benefits.  You are innovating, including through green bonds.  You are developing or deepening emissions trading schemes.

Sweden, Colombia and others are using carbon taxes.  Sweden’s long-standing carbon tax has been increasing gradually, giving households and businesses time to adjust, while emissions have declined and economic growth has continued.

Uganda is implementing a climate change budget tagging system to track public expenditures related to climate action.  Dominica has used fiscal measures to improve preparedness for climate shocks.  And Finland not only has an ambitious 2035 target for carbon neutrality, but also supports innovative procurement strategies.

Central banks also have a key role to play in protecting financial systems against climate-related risks.

Such measures are only a start.  Climate needs to be mainstreamed across your work.  Your Coalition is taking the “whole‑of‑government” approach we need for systemic change.  We need to have in place by COP26 [twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] country-level road maps and fiscal policies for economic, technological and energy transitions.

Such policies are not just good for the climate; they also generate significant economic benefits.  The 57 carbon‑pricing initiatives that have been implemented around the world raised $44 billion in 2018 alone.

And we should not underestimate the signal effect of such policies, and the impact that the shift in incentives has on private sector investment decisions and behaviour.

You are a vital lever for climate action in your country.  You also have many strong partners.  The United Nations and I look forward to working even more closely together at this pivotal moment to deliver for people and planet.

For information media. Not an official record.