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Climate Legacy Initiative

Smart Taxes takes an essentially economic approach to addressing social and environmental issues. In general, we stress the benefits of aligning economic incentives and disincentives with democratically agreed objectives. This is in contrast to the current system that  leaves perverse incentives in place and then employs restrictive regulation and redistribution to deliver on social and environmental goals.

Hence, Smart Taxes favours inter alia, land value taxes to encourage sustainable development and efficient infrastructure investment; Cap/Tax and Share to encourage carbon shift and renewable energy investment; Non-debt money to create the conditions for a steady state economy; Equity/Capital Partnerships to align developer, investors, managers and consumer interests in the construction and ownership of building, energy and infrastructure assets- as well as other evolving policies for resource charging and partial reimbursement of the receipts as a citizens dividend.

But we also claim that these fiscal and monetary mechanisms are based on neglected truths and political imperatives that have been brought into sharp relief by the current financial and environmental crises.  These truths revolve around the concept of ‘the commons’; both natural (as in the atmosphere) and virtual (as in scientific knowledge), their ownership and proper management.

In this regards, Smart Taxes supports the fine work of the legal community in North America that is developing a  legal political framework for ‘the commons’ as outlined their report;- ‘Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice’.  It is particularly relevant now as the Social Partners in Ireland interrogate what measure, if not economic growth aka GDP, should guide future decision-making.   Aspiring to maximise ‘wellbeing’ alone we suggest , is a dangerous criteria that does not pass the time test.  As the Climate Legacy Initiative authors (a joint initiative with The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights) point out..

“The rights of future generations implicate, among other things, a merger of environmental and human rights law. It is a developing field of law that, in the name of intergenerational justice (or equity), requires a balancing of the well-being of future generations with that of present generations when making contemporary societal and environmental decisions. “

The report proposes priciples that are worth printing here in full.

The ten legal principles briefly…, providing for both commons and government activism, can protect the rights of present and future generations to the environmental necessities of life, community, and dignity. This is best understood, we believe, by viewing them together as an interdependent whole, again defining the commons to mean all the creations of nature and society that we inherit jointly and freely and hold in trust for future generations, a constituent ecological commons included.

  1. A life-sustaining, community-nourishing, and dignity-enhancing ecological commons is afundamental human right of present and future generations.
  2. It is the duty of each generation to pass the commons on to future generations unimpaired by any degradation or depletion that compromises the ability of future generations to secure their rights and needs.
  3. The services and infrastructure of the Earth necessary for humans and other living beings to be fully biological and communal creatures shall reside within the domain of the commons.
  4. All commoners (the public or a defined community) have rights of access to, and use of, the ecological commons without discrimination unrelated to need. Such rights shall not be alienated or diminished except for the purpose of protecting the commons for future generations.
  5. Publicly owned commons belong not to the state but to the commoners (the public
    or a defined community), both present and future, who are entitled to the benefits of
    their commons.
  6. It is the responsibility of government to serve as trustee of commons assigned to
    it by law for present and future generations. In fulfillment of this responsibility,
    governments may create new institutions and mechanisms as well as authorize
    responsible parties to manage the commons or resources therein. All actions taken by
    government or its designees must be transparent and accountable to commoners.
  7. The precautionary principle is a useful guide for protecting the commons for present
    and future generations.
  8. Eminent domain (the “taking” of private property for a public use and subject to
    payment of just compensation) is the principal legal process for moving private
    property into the commons and protecting or enhancing the commons.
  9. The market, commerce, and private property owners shall not externalize damage
    or costs onto the commons. If the commons are damaged, the polluter, not the
    commoners, pays.
  10. Future generations shall not inherit a financial debt without a corresponding
    commons asset.

The Climate Legacy Initiative is  based in the environmental law centre of the Vermont law School and its report and important supporting documents in the appendixes can be downloaded here.

Posted in Land Taxation, Money Systems, News, Site Value Tax.

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2 Responses

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  1. ghamot says

    The work of the Climate Legacy Initiative is, without doubt, critically important to the lives of our children and grandchildren. As director of The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (which for some reason is not rightly credited in this article as a co-sponsor of the CLI report) , I applaud your effort to make the world aware of this vitally important work.

    Greg Hamot

  2. Emer says

    Apologies for regrettable omission to credit University of Iowa Centre for Human Rights. Will amend forthwith. Emer