Politics of Poverty

How Massachusetts is leading the climate resistance

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Signs at the People's Climate March in Washington, DC, April 29, 2017. (Photo: Mark Dixon / Wikimedia Commons)

One state is rewriting the rulebook to help developing countries adapt.

Climate change is a humanitarian crisis. From Bangladesh to Barbuda to Puerto Rico, we see the widespread human suffering that is linked to increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and droughts. And in moments like this, we must ask ourselves what each of us can do to help, which includes stepping up to donate and support relief efforts. This is something that Oxfam has always done in humanitarian crisis around the world.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the connections to climate change, and the need to support long-term solutions. To avoid future suffering, we have a moral obligation to act by not only reducing emissions to reverse climate change, but also to invest in resiliency solutions, to protect poor and vulnerable communities globally who have limited resources to adapt and protect themselves.

Unfortunately, the US has a leadership gap on climate action. President Trump has spent his first year in office systematically rolling back progress on climate action, and slashing support for international climate programs. In June, he announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement – turning his back on those most vulnerable to climate impacts and rejecting their human right to a habitable planet.

So who can step up? How do we support those who are in the greatest need? On this issue, one state is out in front, as its leaders take matters into their own hands.   

Massachusetts is stepping up

In the absence of leadership at our highest levels, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is stepping up in an innovative way.

Earlier this year, State Senator Michael J. Barret introduced Senate Bill 2056 (S.2056), a bill that would create a voluntary check-off option for Massachusetts residents to contribute a portion of their tax return to the United Nation’s Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).

The LDCF is a critical finance account exclusively focused on supporting climate adaptation projects in the 49 Least Developed Countries in the world. These communities are the most vulnerable to climate impacts, and have the least resources to adapt and protect themselves. Oxfam has been a long-time supporter of climate finance because it is an effective tool to help those whose lives are on the line because of climate change.

The bill was recently referred to the Massachusetts Joint Revenue Committee, and at the first public hearing on October 31st, Oxfam America will be testifying in support of the bill. We believe that there are many key benefits of this bill and its approach:

First, it helps the world’s most vulnerable. All funds raised through the bill will go to a special fund focused on supporting those who are most vulnerable to climate change and who have the least resources to protect themselves. These projects can strengthen resiliency to future extreme weather events and build capacity at a local level to improve responses. This can save lives and improve livelihoods.

Second, it demonstrates support for the Paris Climate Agreement. This legislation takes a stand against President Trump’s anti-climate agenda, and in particular, S.2056 demonstrates support for helping poor, developing countries adapt and protect themselves from a crisis they did not create. If successful, this bill would serve as a powerful indication of public support for global climate action and will be the benchmark for action by other sub-national entities, domestically and abroad.

Third, it encourages Massachusetts residents to make a global impact. Climate change is a global challenge that requires collective action. Oxfam has always been about the power of individuals to organize and fight for change. This innovative approach provides Massachusetts residents an easily accessible opportunity to take global action and make a meaningful difference in the lives of those most affected by climate change. It is connecting local action to global solutions.

Fourth, it has no state costs. There are no programmatic or net administrative costs to the state or mandates upon citizens. The program is entirely voluntary, and all funds raised will go directly to the LDCF.

To be sure: this effort by Massachusetts and possible future efforts by other states or cities, in no way replaces or offsets the responsibility of the federal government. The likely funds raised by this bill will certainly not equal the billions previously pledged towards climate finance, but in this time of uncertainty under the Trump presidency, it is critical that we act.

Sign this petition and tell the Massachusetts legislature to vote YES on S.2056.

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