Dispatch from South Africa: Youth Rally for Robin Hood Tax to Fill Empty Green Climate Fund

NWF   |   December 5, 2011

Kate Catlin, a native of the Seattle area, has been selected as a member of the United States Youth Delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011. A junior at Gonzaga University pursuing a B.S. in Economics, Kate is currently in Nicaragua interning with Soluciones Comunitarias. She will be providing updates about her experience as a youth delegate on this blog.

YOUNGO rallying for the "Robin Hood" tax
The group YOUNGO dressed the part as they demonstrated in favor of the "Robin Hood Tax."/ Photo courtesy SustainUS
Last week, the Finance Working Group within YOUNGO organized a brilliantly successful action to raise awareness about the Financial Transaction Tax (or “Robin Hood Tax”). Costumed as Robin Hoods, we displayed a giant green and white bull’s eye in one of the demonstration areas. As delegates passed by, they were offered a bow and arrow to shoot towards the target, which had a Robin Hood hat at the center.

While the atmosphere had an easy-going circus feel to it, instead of music in the background, there were calls for “Target filling the Green Climate Fund!” and chants of: “Take aim for the Financial Transaction Tax!” Delegates from several countries listened or participated; including South Korea, Namibia, Taiwan, Norway, and a surprise supportive appearance from the Mrs. Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Science and Technology  of South Africa. This is especially significant as we are hosted in her home nation and they recently signed on to the Tax’s Coalition of the Willing!

Why do we need a tax? UN parties have agreed that $100 billion annually must be mobilized by 2020 to mitigate climate change and support communities in developing nations adapt. Under a “Polluter Pays” Principle, it should be the developed nations that fill this fund. However, we’ve been slow to make good on this promise, claiming that the economic crisis means that there just isn’t any money to fight climate change.

That’s where the Robin Hood Tax comes in. The Robin Hood tax is a micro-tax (0.01%-0.05%) on each trade of stocks, derivatives, currency, and other financial instruments. It would have no effect on the average person’s transactions like withdrawing money from a bank account. This has two benefits: raising huge amounts of revenue and discouraging high-frequency trading that has little social value but poses big risks to the economy.

The YOUNGO finance working group takes the stance that it is an essential way to fill the empty Green Climate Fund. We ask more nations to join the “Coalition of the Willing”, and that the Coalition meet in the next two months with a concrete plan supporting implementation. As the saying goes – the more the “merrier!” Estimates by economists vary, but with global realization they predict potential revenue of $176 billion to $650 billion annually.

It was amazing to be part of a demonstration with young participants from all over the world. Zora Chia-Yun Tsai from Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition told me: “I support the FTT because it’s a tool for social justice and a way to rebalance cash from the wealthy to the poor. I think if there was international support Taiwan would follow.” Barry McCarron from the UK said; “I’m taking part in the action after listening to stories from African young people about how climate finance could make so much difference to them at grassroots level.”

Personally, I’ve supported the tax since researching for the SustainUS finance policy position paper. I will continue to support it through activism after COP is over – yet another way this conference may just change my life!

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Published: December 5, 2011