Franziska Mager ■ Launching the Tax Justice Network’s new climate initiative
If you had told me when I was younger that I would be thinking about taxes, voluntarily, day in and out, I would have laughed. But then, through a combination of research, exposure, being challenged, and righteous anger, I started taking to issues of economic justice, of inequality.
What I used to not have words for – the fact that in Brazil, I saw more helicopters than in New York, and yet many communities had no access to sanitation facilities, that these two extremes shouldn’t co-exist – became part of a new understanding. With this understanding of inequality, came another slow and painful realisation: that the wealthiest countries and households are far, far more responsible for overconsumption and planetary damage – something that is more widely understood today. Because the resulting harms are felt most sharply by lower income countries and households, the crises of climate and inequality are mutually exacerbating. In fact, I don’t think of them as two separate issues anymore – they are two sides of the same problem.
This led me to asking questions about what we can do about it, to reduce emissions, to reduce inequality – and is what ultimately landed me in this job.
Today, we are happy to announce the Tax Justice Network’s new stream of work focused on carbon tax justice – a vital aspect of our mission to reprogramme tax systems into tools for equality. Our work on carbon tax justice will seek to mainstream our approach to pricing and non-pricing instruments aiming to cut carbon emissions, and relies on what we call the triple reduction nexus:
- emissions need to be reduced quickly;
- in large quantities;
- while simultaneously trying to reduce high and rising inequality.
This nexus reflects the need for radical, progressive climate policies built on equality, treating the needs of all members of society in the middle of major transition as equally important, while recognising the legacies of historic climate injustice.
To mark the occasion, we are releasing a comprehensive position paper titled Delivering climate justice using the principles of tax justice: A guide for climate justice advocates. The document aims to demystify and lay bare what tax can (and can’t!) do for climate justice.
It is cognisant of the fact that those among us who consider themselves part of the climate justice movement seldom get the chance to speak with confidence about reforming the financial system, the fiscal structures and tax frameworks that so critically constrain effective climate action, when they could be playing a vital part. Opening ourselves up to the immense role these systems and frameworks play can seem daunting, as the ministries and organisations that negotiate them, their language and analyses tend to shroud themselves behind a veneer of seemingly neutral, highly technical expertise.
The position paper is therefore meant for anyone interested in the principles, arguments and areas where the worlds of tax and climate justice overlap – be they activists, policy specialists, researchers and journalists – and overlap they do, a lot.
This brief will also serve as a guidepost for our future activities, outlining our understanding of specific areas deserving of targeted efforts, against the backdrop of our continued advocacy around a UN tax convention.↪NOTEFor the past century, global tax rules have been set by a small club of rich countries, some of which rank as the world’s most harmful tax havens. The outcome is tax rules that fail to stop, and sometimes even encourage, tax injustice.
Establishing a UN tax convention will give all countries a say on global tax rules through a democratic, inclusive intergovernmental body under the UN, and will introduce global tax rules that must adhere to the UN’s human rights principles. Learn more here. It serves as the foundation upon which we will develop advocacy, policy and research activities, in collaboration with our networks, allies and partners.
Carbon tax justice capitalises on the immense skills and knowledge built in the movement over the past 20 years, cutting-edge thinking and weaving together of solutions to interconnected issues. Over the next few weeks, expect to dive into topics that link the climate and tax justice movements in tangible ways, including through mechanisms of financial transparency. We’ll dive deeper into why beneficial ownership transparency↪NOTEA beneficial owner is the real person, made of flesh and blood, who ultimately owns, controls or benefits from a company or legal vehicle. Transparency on beneficial owners cuts through the secrecy tactics used to hide the identities of beneficial owners, and makes sure the wealthiest are held to the same level of transparency and accountability as everybody else. Learn more here. is closely linked to some of the most carbon-intensive industries, and take a new look at why carbon credit schemes are set up to fail countries in the Global South.
Together, we can challenge the status quo, dismantle systemic inequalities, and forge a more sustainable future for all. Please come along for the ride and let us know how you would like to collaborate.