How much should tankers pay to compensate for their climate damage?

This post is taken from the newsletter ” Human warmth “, sent every Tuesday at 12 noon. Every week, journalist Nabil Wakim, who hosts the Chaleur Humaine podcast, answers questions from Internet users about the climate challenge. You can register for free here:

” Good morning. I am very attentive to your podcasts Human heat, and I notice that there is a lot of talk about taxing citizens but little about those responsible for the disaster, for example the oil companies? Besides, do we know how to calculate the amount of their impact on global warming? » (Question asked by Victor at the address [email protected].)

My answer : Thank you for this very interesting question. It turns out that since your message, scientists have sought to measure (In this study) precisely how much the 21 largest groups in the oil and gas sector should pay to offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated by their activity: 209 billion dollars per year (193 billion euros) between 2025 and 2050.

Even if it’s a little different, we discussed more generally the question of “how to make polluters pay” with the economist Christian Gollier in this episode of Human Heat.

1/Why make fossil fuel companies pay?

This study published in May 2023 starts from a question: “Who should bear the cost of climate disasters caused by human activity? »wonder the two authors of the study published in the scientific journal One Earth, which targets 21 oil, gas and coal companies. States, citizens, insurers? For Italian and American researchers Marc Grasso and Richard Heede, those responsible for greenhouse gas emissions must assume their moral responsibility, under international environmental law and the “polluter pays” principle.

“Recent scientific advances have highlighted the fact that these companies have played a major role in driving up the costs [du changement climatique] by providing gigatonnes of fossil fuels, while willfully ignoring the associated climate risks”, they write. They also recall that, at the same time, many of these companies disseminated false information in public opinion and financed active lobbying against climate policies.

2/How is this sum calculated?

The authors propose a methodology to calculate the impact of these companies on the climate and the amounts they should reimburse. They start accounting in the year 1988, the beginning of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations (UN). They defend the idea that companies from the wealthiest countries should contribute more than those from the poorest countries.

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