A strong message that emerged from the Climate and Jobs Conference on March 10th was that we can’t afford any longer to treat climate change as solely and narrowly an environmental issue.
The image of the polar bear stranded on an ice sheet belies a deeper human reality. Our gaze should be directed instead at the millions whose lives are being turned upside down by a calamitous rise in extreme weather fuelled by the unprecedented levels of green-house gases not present for three million years.
Above all the impact of climate change is social and political; and an image that better befits this paradigm are the islanders of Dominica and the British Virgin Islands rendered homeless by the double-whammy of hurricanes Irma and Marie that struck last December. The obvious irony here is the fact that the dispossessed islanders, while in all likelihood lacking the financial resources or sufficient aid to rebuild their lives, occupy islands where trillions of dollars are secreted and untaxed. These islands are ranked number four and five by Investopedia as the Caribbean’s best tax havens. Here wealth is exempt from income, corporate and capital gains taxes and there are no withholding taxes and no estate taxes, including inheritance or gift taxes. Needless to say some modicum of taxation on this wealth might not only be of some benefit to the islanders but many others besides when in 2017 only eight billionaires possessed the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who form the poorest half of the world's population.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, appropriately dubbed the MP for the 19thcentury, is like many of his fellow Brexiteers, both a defender of such ‘secrecy jurisdictions’ and also someone who poo-poos concerns about global warming as ‘climate alarmism.’ This is hardly unsurprising on both counts as firstly according to the Guardian, (www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/09/brexiters-put-money-offshore-tax-haven) Somerset Captal Management, an emerging markets fund that he co-founded in 2007 is managed via subsidiaries in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands and Singapore. Secondly a considerable amount of his personal wealth is derived from interests in mining oil and gas and tobacco, an inconvenient truth that he omitted to declare to parliament in 2012. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/tory-backbench-mp-jacob-rees-mogg-failed-to-declare-interests-9923362.html)
So yes, we face an environmental and climate crisis largely brought about by fossil fuels and extractivism from which relics like Rees-Mogg have enriched themselves, however like the impact of taxation its impact falls very lightly, if at all, on some. It is interesting if not disturbing that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father who was editor of the Times, co-authored a book in 1997, the Sovereign Individual: (How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State) This book has now almost cult status amongst the uber-rich techno-billionaires who are determined their wealth will enable them to escape the sacrifice zones to which they think the rest of us will be condemned. Pay-pal billionaires and the like have been buying up huge swathes of land and citizenship to boot in New Zealand where they imagine they might be safe in a post- apocalyptic world. To my mind it is time the sovereign individual is superseded by the common good and where social justice and climate justice are combined.
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