Immense impending bushfire costs heighten call for Climate Disaster Levy

The unprecedented national bushfire crisis has highlighted the urgent need for a National Climate Disaster Levy to pay for the immense impending costs of these ongoing disasters. Today the Australia Institute is launching a full-page advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald renewing its call for the levy.

Damage from the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009 occurred largely on a single day and is estimated to have cost Australians over $7 billion. In contrast, the current national bushfire catastrophe is at least 6 times as large in area and there is no end in sight.

Australia Institute modeling shows that the levy, set initially at $1 per tonne of embodied emissions from all coal, oil and gas mined in Australia would raise approximately $1.5 billion per year for a National Climate Disaster Fund.

“The current bushfires are unprecedented. Small businesses and households are facing enormous costs from this ongoing crisis,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute.

“It is misleading and disingenuous to suggest these events are natural because Australia has experienced bushfires before. Firefighters themselves are saying these bushfires are bigger, more intense and more dangerous than anything they have experienced before.

“All the science is telling us that these kinds of climate driven disasters will keep getting worse while we keep pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

“Every tonne of coal or gas mined in Australia adds approximately 2.5 tonnes of heat-trapping gas to the atmosphere, making bushfires more frequent and more intense. It’s time the handful of global gas and coal companies operating in Australia made a contribution to paying for the climate disasters they are fuelling.

“With the recent calls for the cancellation of New Years fireworks to raise funds for firefighting efforts, it is clear there is growing community concern for how we pay for the costs of bushfires. A modest $1 levy would at least begin to raise revenue from those profiting from climate change.

“A National Climate Disaster Levy would help to begin shifting the economic burden of climate disasters from our at-risk regional communities to the global coal and gas companies that are creating the problem in the first place.

“Industries that face enormous costs as a result of climate change, including agriculture and tourism could then benefit from the national fund assisting with disaster recovery and building resilience.”

The full-page advertisement calling for a National Climate Disaster Levy on fossil fuel production will appear in The Sydney Morning Herald on 3 January 2020. A PDF copy of the advertisement is here.

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