Paris climate summit ends without global shipping tax deal

The Summit for a New Global Financing Pact wraps up without a deal for a tax on the greenhouse gas emissions produced from international shipping.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, William Ruto, President of Kenya, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and World Bank President Ajay Banga attend a joint press conference at the end of the New Global Financial Pact Summit
A joint press conference at the end of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact [Lewis Joly/pool via Reuters]

Participants at a Paris summit on finance and the climate have stopped short of a deal to create a tax on greenhouse gas emissions produced from international shipping.

The two-day gathering of world leaders and finance bosses, aimed at tackling climate change and poverty, ended on Friday without a major announcement.

French President Emmanuel Macron was the host of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. The US was represented by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry.

Other attendees included China’s Prime Minister Li Qiang, Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, World Bank head Ajay Banga and IMF President Kristalina Georgieva.

The idea of a global tax on shipping emissions has been gaining traction and could potentially be adopted at a July meeting of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency regulating shipping.

$100bn tax revenues per year

Some experts believe that such a tax could raise $100bn a year, and a strong endorsement of it in Paris would have provided Macron with a symbolic win.

“This is tax-free sector, and there’s no reason why it’s not taxed,” Macron said.

But the French president suggested that China and the United States were not supporting the idea.

“If China and the US and several key European countries are not onboard, then you would put a tax in place that would not have any impact,” he added.

Under proposals for the tax, the money raised would be directed towards developing countries to help them deal with the challenges of climate change.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called the tax “a very constructive suggestion”.

“I think I would agree with President Macron’s description of the logic of why it would be appropriate, and it’s something that the United States will look at,” she added.

It was unclear which countries attending the summit supported the proposal, which could be an important step towards getting a heavily emitting industry to contribute towards the costs of fighting climate change.

Shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization.

A European Parliament report has warned that its share could increase dramatically by 2050.

To-do list

The Paris summit had no mandate to make formal decisions, but Macron had pledged to deliver a to-do list that would be accompanied by a progress-tracking tool. Such a document has yet to be released.

Several activists and non-governmental organisations had urged the summit participants to ensure that rich countries commit to debt relief for poor nations, including the cancellation of loans.

A debt suspension clause for countries hit by extreme climatic events was also discussed.

To bring in more money, activists also pushed for a tax on the fossil fuel industry and another one on financial transactions, but those two proposals appear to have little support from wealthy nations.

In terms of concrete announcements in Paris, the International Monetary Fund made $100bn worth of assets called special drawing rights available to certain vulnerable countries.

Deals struck

The summit’s first day included announcements of a pair of deals.

French officials said debt-burdened Zambia reached a deal with several creditors, including China, to restructure $6.3bn in loans.

And Senegal reached a deal with the European Union and its Western allies to support efforts to improve its access to energy and increase its share of renewable energy to 40 percent by 2030.

Many officials from poor and climate-vulnerable nations attended with only two top leaders from the Group of Seven most developed countries – Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – in the audience.

Source: AP