Europe: An EU citizens initiative for a Carbon Fee & Dividend is collecting signatures

Europe: An EU citizens initiative for a Carbon Fee & Dividend is collecting signatures

An European Citizen’s Initiative on the application of a carbon tax-citizen’s dividend scheme has been accepted by the European Commission (May 2019) and is, at the moment, collecting support signatures (up until May 2020).

 

The initiative calls for the application of a Carbon Fee, collected by European Countries, to be redistributed entirely through the general population, with no attached conditions. The scheme rests on three main pillars: the collection of the Carbon Fee, as upstream as possible in the fossil fuel economic tree; the distribution of the Dividend to European Union (EU) citizens, with only a small part of it used to pay for its administrative costs (governments do not keep any of the collected revenue); the introduction of a Border Carbon Adjustment, guaranteeing that EU businesses and industries do not suffer from unfair competition from countries with no such carbon fee and dividends policies (pollution intensive products entering the EU would pay a tax and exports from the EU would be refunded).

 

The scheme is based on solid research concerning carbon emissions scenarios, climate change and carbon pricing in order to reach Paris Agreement goals (for the EU). According to the IPCC, carbon prices should gradually be raised to around 13 times what they are today, so that a 2ºC maximum increase in global temperature is attained. Naturally that only rising prices on carbon-intensive products and services is regressive on its own, tending to hit harder on the vulnerable and poor. Hence redistributing the proceeds through the entire population ensures that lower income people will afford to pay for the goods and services they need, and the wealthier – who usually bear a higher per-capita carbon footprint – will generally lose out economically under this policy.

 

According to the initiative instigators, there is wide support for this kind the general Carbon Fee & Dividend policy, which they hope will be materialized in the collection of signatures process referred to above. This support has been voiced by scientists, economists, NGO’s, industry and EU citizens.

 

 

More information at:

“Support the European Citizens’ Climate Initiative” website

André Coelho, “United States: Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends”, Basic Income News, January 29th 2019

Jason Burke Murphy, “Carbon Tax and Dividend Endorsed by Irish Prime Minister”, Basic Income News, January 30th 2019

André Coelho, “Michael Howard: “We have two years to avoid climate disaster. A carbon fee and dividend will help”, Basic Income News, January 6th 2019

Australia: Attempt to Form the Citizen’s Dividend Party

Australia: Attempt to Form the Citizen’s Dividend Party

Picture Credit: Timothy Swinson

Paul Ross is trying to found the Citizen’s Dividend Party (CDP) in Australia, and to take part  in the election of May 2019.

The foundational pledge, as found on the website, is:

To render virtually Every Citizen Directly Better-Off and Australian Society absolutely Better-Off.”

This would be accomplished through the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), the pillar of the of the would-be party. The specifics can be found on the CDP’s Declaration: the bulk of the Citizen Dividend would be founded through a 20% full-breadth Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Australian Value Added Tax (VAT), and the proposed dividend would amount to around $18,000 for adults and $5,000 for children annually.

In order for the party to start, it needs 500 members who are enlisted to the Australian electoral roll.  With the next federal election due by May 2019, and the application to register a new party taking at least twelve weeks, the goal is to reach the required number of members by March 2, 2019.

 

You can find more information at:

Citizen’s Dividend Party’s Website: https://citizens-dividend.org/

 

GOA, INDIA: Mining reform group releases Manifesto, calls for citizen’s dividend

GOA, INDIA: Mining reform group releases Manifesto, calls for citizen’s dividend

The Goenchi Mati Movement advocates for the reform of mining practices in the Indian state of Goa. Its proposals include the investment of all money from iron ore mining into a permanent fund, which would be used to finance a citizen’s dividend. 

Similar to Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, the fund’s income would be distributed equally to all citizens in the form of an unconditional cash grant, providing all Goans with a basic income.

 

Founded in 2014, the Goenchi Mati Movement (GMM) aspires to reform mining practices that it believes to deprive residents of Goa their deserved share of the natural resources in their homeland, while also rapidly depleting these resources and damaging the environment. Describing the state’s mining practices, the GMM’s Manifesto says, “The total loss was enormous: nearly twice the state revenues, or over 25% of per capita income, or thrice the poverty line. The loss was effectively a per head tax equally on everyone. A few have become rich from our children’s inheritance. This is clearly not a reasonable situation.”

Goa mines, CC BY 2.0 Abhisek Sarda

Goa mines, CC BY 2.0 Abhisek Sarda

While iron ore mining has a long history in Goa, it expanded rapidly during the mid-2000s, and quickly became plagued with malpractice and illegal activity. In September 2012, the Supreme Court of India temporarily suspended mining in the state while hearing a public interest litigation. In its final judgement in April 2014, the Supreme Court declared all mining activities to have been illegal, largely due to mining companies’ lack of valid leases and licenses.

The environmental action group The Goa Foundation submitted a series of letters to the government of Goa in 2014, wherein it demanded the recovery of losses due to illegal mining and a restructured mining system based on the Goenchi Mati Principles. However, the government did not respond and began renewing the leases of Goa’s iron ore mines near the end of the year. By early 2015, the government had renewed the leases of 88 mines.

 

The GMM Manifesto

The Goenchi Mati Movement has published a Manifesto that outlines its proposal, which centers on six core principles (bold typeface in original):

1. We, the people of Goa, own the minerals in common. The state government is merely a trustee of natural resources for the people and especially future generations.

2. As we have inherited the minerals, we are simply custodians and must pass them on to future generations.

3. Therefore, if we mine and we sell our mineral resources, we must ensure zero loss, i.e. capture of the full economic rent (sale price minus cost of extraction, cost including reasonable profit for miner). Any loss is a loss to all of us and our future generations.

4. All the money received from our minerals must be saved in the Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund, as already implemented all over the globe. Like the minerals, the Permanent Fund will also be part of the commons. The Supreme Court has ordered the creation of a Permanent Fund for Goan iron ore and already Rs. 94 crores [about 3.8 million USD] is deposited.

5. Any real income (after inflation) from the Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund must only be distributed to all as a right of ownership, a Citizen’s Dividend. This is like the comunidade zonn, but paid to everyone. [The comunidades of Goa are traditional villages in which land is owned collectively. Comunidades pay an annual dividend, called the zonn, to residents.]

6. The implementation of these principles will be done in a transparent participatory process with the people of Goa.

The GMM launched its Manifesto at a press conference on Monday, November 21, and hopes soon to publish it in multiple languages, as well as to develop a variety of supplemental materials (e.g. animated explainer videos, video-based FAQs, and even songs and street theatre).

Claude Alvares and Rahul Basu at Press Conference

GMM’s Claude Alvares and Rahul Basu at press conference

 

The Permanent Fund and Dividend

As stated in the manifesto, an important first step towards the creation of a Goan iron ore permanent fund is already in place: in April 2014, the Supreme Court of India issued an order that mandated the establishment of such a fund, which presently holds Rs 94 crores (or about 3.8 million USD). Commenting on the significance of the permanent fund, Rahul Basu of the GMM states, “It is, to our knowledge, the first such permanent fund on intergenerational equity grounds to be ordered by judicial pronouncement. If it stands up to the legal challenges, which will then also clarify some aspects of the order, it can become a global legal precedent, which makes it potentially very powerful.” However, the Supreme Court’s order did not require that the permanent fund be used to finance a citizen’s dividend.

GMM Workspace

GMM Workspace

According to the Goenchi Mati Movement, the citizen’s dividend is a crucial component of the mining reforms for several reasons. First, it gives Goan citizens a stake in the minerals in their land, creating a stronger bond between the citizens and the commons (as one of GMM’s blog posts puts it).

Second, it leaves the government without money from the sale of the state’s minerals. In the absence of money from iron ore, the government might then be forced to tax its citizens to raise revenue. Following thinkers like Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (the authors of Why Nations Fail), GMM argues that this change would promote good governance: “If the government wants to do all the various good things that need to be done, let them make a case to the people directly. If the people feel the government is good, they will agree to whatever new tax is imposed.”

Third, it compensates for what GMM sees as a bald injustice. As Basu describes it, any appropriation of parts of the commons–such as minerals and the land containing them–is effectively a “per head tax” or a “negative UBI” (that is, a practice that takes a share of resources away from every citizen).

2014-03-18-claude-mines-presentation-to-aap45Further reflecting on the moral significance of the dividend, Basu comments:

“Fundamentally, we are turning a lump sum mineral into a perpetual stream of Citizen’s Dividend. The Citizen’s Dividend today is given equally to everyone, achieving intragenerational equity. The perpetual nature of the Citizen’s Dividend achieves intergenerational equity. In a sense, each generation benefits to the extent of the real income. From this, we get to a practical example of the Golden Rule (the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself), but even across generations.”

GMM has been influenced by the model of Alaska’s Permanent Fund and Dividend, and also considers itself closely aligned in its thinking with Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based organization that promotes global action for the adoption of carbon tax and dividend policies.

Speaking about GMM, BIEN co-founder and honorary co-president Guy Standing said:

This is the optimum way of promoting community development while giving every man, woman and child a sense of basic security and pride in their community. It is enlightened, it is sensible, and it is eminently feasible.

 

Goan State Elections

With state elections to take place in early 2017, the Goenchi Mati Movement is urging Goans to vote only for politicians who will implement its Manifesto, and is currently devoting much of its attention to this political action.

As other sources confirm, mining policy is expected to be a central area of debate in the 2017 state elections. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a relatively young party in Goa, promises sustainable mining practices, while meanwhile calling for a doubling of the mining cap. Meanwhile, environmental groups such as the Goa Foundation oppose the AAP’s plans, calling for greater restrictions.

The two major parties in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress, were in power during the controversial and illegal practices documented by the Goa Foundation — the Congress while the illegal mining practice themselves were occurring, and the BJP when the leases of the companies were renewed.   

GMM states, “We urge whichever Government is elected in 2017 to immediately cancel the leases and reframe a fair and just mining policy for the people of Goa. We request the Public to join our campaign, fight for what is rightfully theirs and urge them to vote for those politicians that will change the system.”

GMM has produced a short video to emphasize this message:

 

Other Activities

Outside of direct political action, the Goenchi Mati Movement has been adopting other strategies to raise awareness of its vision. For example, on November 11, it sponsored an art show intended to promote reflection on the shared inheritance of the citizens of Goa. While this initial show was centered on paintings, GMM plans to host a second art show featuring cartoons, and third featuring photography.

Basu states, “Artists are at the leading edge of thinking, and they influence the masses in subtle and long term ways.”

Part of GMM's Art Exhibit

Scenes from GMM’s Art Exhibit

gmm-art-show-2

 

Additionally, the Goa Foundation is engaging in litigation — a challenge to the structure of the Goan permanent fund (including the demand for citizen’s dividend), and a challenge to the 2014-15 lease renewals of the mines — and beginning to undertake academic research.  

GMM Members at Create-a-Thon

GMM Members at Create-a-Thon

 

BI-Related Reading from GMM

Rahul Basu and Deepak Narayanan (August 3, 2016) “Viewpoint: What can we learn from a campaign for zero-loss mining in Goa?” Citizen’s Income Trust.

Connects the activities of the Goenchi Mati Movement to the worldwide movement for basic income. Published on the blog of BIEN’s UK affiliate, the Citizen’s Income Trust.

Goenchi Mati (September 20, 2016) “Why should all mineral receipts be saved in the Permanent Fund?

Argues that mineral receipts should be saved only in a permanent fund.

Goenchi Mati (October 28, 2016) “Why a Citizen’s Dividend? Why only a Citizen’s Dividend?

Addresses the counterargument that some of the revenue of the iron ore permanent fund should go to the government instead of directly to the citizens.

 

Longer Video on the Goenchi Mati Movement (22:59)


Thanks to Rahul Basu for supplying information and photos, and for reviewing an earlier draft of this article.

Cover Image CC Frederick Noronha

 

 

EUROPE: 75 economists endorse Quantitative Easing for People campaign

EUROPE: 75 economists endorse Quantitative Easing for People campaign

At the end of November, a coalition of eurozone campaigners, civil society organizations and economists launched the campaign Quantitative Easing for People, calling for the European Central Bank (ECB) to radically change its approach to the current Quantitative Easing (QE) program. At the time of writing, 75 economists have endorsed the campaign.

The initiative brings together groups including Social Justice Ireland, Collectif Roosevelt (France), World Future Council (Germany), FairFin (Belgium), European Alternatives, and Basic Income Europe. The campaign is also supported by organizations from Italy, Greece, Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands; see the full list here.

QE is an unconventional monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the economy. It usually consists of buying government bonds or other securities in order to lower interest rates and increase the money supply. QE began in the eurozone earlier this year, and the ECB is currently creating 60 billion Euros each month. Matthias Kroll from the World Future Council said: “So far the ECB’s QE program has proven to be ineffective in raising inflation back to its 2% target.”

“Flooding financial markets inflates share and bond prices, which makes the rich richer, but does little to help households and business. In fact, QE is helping fuel a new financial bubble, laying the foundation for another financial crisis. The eurozone needs a more direct and efficient stimulus.”

European stock markets plunged on December 3, when Draghi announced that the current QE program would be extended by six months to March 2017. This is a sign that even large corporations and financial markets do not believe in Draghi’s QE and expect more.

The aim of the QE for People campaign is to push the ECB to spend the money differently, by focusing on public investment, key social services or redistributive mechanisms like a citizens’ dividend – the last idea resonating well with basic income activists.

The proposal was first put forward in a letter signed by 19 economists and published in the Financial Times in March this year:

Rather than being injected into the financial markets, the new money created by eurozone central banks could be used to finance government spending (such as investing in much needed infrastructure projects); alternatively each eurozone citizen could be given €175 per month, for 19 months, which they could use to pay down existing debts or spend as they please.

Cash transfers under QE for People and basic income have common features. Both are directed to all citizens, with no strings attached. The time dimension differs though, as QE measures are by definition temporary, while basic income is a permanent scheme.

The 75 experts who support the campaign include several pioneers of the idea, such as Professor Steve Keen, Professor David Graeber and fund manager Eric Lonergan, as well as other influential economists and financial analysts like Ann Pettifor and Frances Coppola. These experts signed a statement of support that lays out the reasons behind the campaign:

1. Conventional QE does not work

Since it started in March, the eurozone QE program has not helped to rescue the eurozone economies from stagnation.

 

2. Conventional QE is risky and harmful

Flooding financial markets inflates share and bond prices, which makes the rich richer but does little to help ordinary people and businesses. In fact, QE is helping fuel a new financial bubble, laying the foundation for another financial crisis.

 

3. A more direct approach is needed

Countries in the eurozone need to stimulate their economies without increasing public and private debt, without increasing inequality, and without creating bubbles.

 

4. QE for People is possible

Instead of flooding financial markets, money created through QE should be spent into the real economy, on essential public investment such as green infrastructure, affordable housing and/or distributed as a citizens’ dividend to all residents.

 

5. QE for People is urgently needed

Given the challenges facing the eurozone, we urge economists, civil society organizations, and people from across the eurozone to join us in calling on the ECB to implement QE for People as soon as possible.

 

The campaign will focus on raising awareness of the failures of the current QE program, building political momentum around alternative monetary policies and fostering further research. “Having more than 70 economists endorsing the idea is a huge milestone, but this is only the beginning. Our goal is to create a much bigger coalition with citizens, academics and civil society organizations,” said Stan Jourdan, campaign coordinator.

If you want to know more about the campaign, visit the campaign website.

You can join the movement QE for People by signing up here.

Economists can endorse the campaign here.

See also: Stanislas Jourdan, “Europe: 19 economists call on the ECB to make ‘QE for the people’ in a letter to the Financial Times,” Basic Income News, March 27, 2015.