Environment

Who should pay for climate change? The oil and gas companies, according to most Brits

Climate change is real, so who should foot the bill? The people have had their say.

A BP sign with it's yellow and green spiky circles fills the screen against a clear blue skyfills

Oil giant BP is making huge profits in the cost of living crisis. Image: Mike Mozart/Flickr

From wildfires to devastating flooding, the consequences of global heating are here. Dealing with these catastrophes will cost trillions of pounds. So who should pay up? Most UK citizens have a clear answer to this question: fossil fuel companies.

Some 78 per cent of people think that it is unfair for oil and gas companies to make record profits without taking responsibility for the damage caused to the climate, according to a new poll by Christian Aid. Just 6 percent disagreed.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) supported taxing oil companies and using the money for a loss and damage fund. This money pot would support nations most impacted by climate change.

The research comes just days after various oil giants posted massive profits for the first quarter of 2023. Shell reported revenue of $9.6bn (£7.6bn) for the first three months of the year. BP’s profits hit $5 bn (£4bn) in the same period.

Oil giants have enjoyed eye-watering income since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spiked fuel prices last year, while consumers energy bills have gone through the roof.

“Record profits by fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP should be a wake-up call, and spur real accountability for the damage they are causing,” said Patrick Watt, chief executive of Christian Aid.

“That’s not just Christian Aid’s view, it’s the view of an overwhelming majority of the British public.

“The UK government should be ensuring that major polluters meet their moral responsibility to repair the damage they have caused to the climate.”

Women and people aged 35 and over are the most likely to support an energy levy which would help more vulnerable nations, the poll suggests.

Should we impose a windfall tax on oil and gas giants?

The oil and gas industry causes the lion’s share of emissions fuelling ecological collapse.

Fossil fuel emissions reached 36.8 billion tonnes in 2022 – around 65 per cent of total emissions.  

This vast carbon footprint is wreaking havoc with global weather patterns.

While oil and gas shareholders reap record dividends, vulnerable countries are bearing the brunt of climate chaos.

Pakistan is responsible for less than one per cent of global emissions. But unprecedented floods ravaged the country last year, leaving 20.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.  

The deluge took more than 1,700 lives and will cost Pakistan a mammoth $40 billion (£32bn).

Unfortunately, such devastating outcomes are likely to become increasingly common.

According to a UN-backed report released last year, developing and emerging countries will need $2 trillion (£1.6tn) per year by 2030 to cope with climate breakdown.

Will the UK instate a windfall tax?

At 2022’s COP27 – the UN’s annual climate change conference – most countries agreed to a loss-and-damage fund.

The details of this fund will be hammered out later this year, but campaigners hope it will see rich countries like the UK send increased aid to developing countries.

Taxpayers will likely foot the bill for this, not energy companies.

But it could theoretically be funded by energy companies. Last year, the government introduced a windfall tax on oil and gas giants – the so-called ‘energy profits levy’ – to fund energy bill subsidies.

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