Energy and Climate Policy Institute

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Enerzine No. 8 Carbon Tax Radicalization
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   Enerzine No 8 Carbon Tax Radicalization.pdf (107.1K) [9] DATE : 2011-07-26 14:18:14
1. Issues
Carbon Tax Radicalization
Usually, progressive camps are expected to stand by the principle of thorough division and regulation on tax policy. As one of the international actions to combat climate change, an alternative system should be enforced that makes way for a new ‘Financial Transactions Tax’ (FTT) and utilizes international climate finance in the same context. Discussion on carbon tax, however, is more complicated, either in the national or international level.

Commonly, it is easy to agree with the idea put taxes on bad things and to prefer progressive taxes in principle. However, it very rarely happens in the camp of Climate Justice, as the international carbon tax might affect trade barriers and is expected to cause some damage on the Third World. National carbon tax, moreover, intensifies climate injustice due to its tax reversibility and its tendency to pass on the cost to consumers.

Essentially, even if carbon tax (“climate Keynesianism”) is better than carbon trading (“cowboy climate capitalism”), it is not easy to willingly endorse a carbon tax policy because carbon tax has the same environmental economics process based on market mechanism with carbon trading or it seems merely some form of pay off for a way out.

The basic criticism of putting a price on carbon is how it only focuses on lifestyle change, such as ecological evolution (or fulfillment of social ecology) or alternative life without strongly denying the currency. For instance, one of the main contents of the Cochabamba statement demands financial support in which developed countries pay back 6% of their GDP for their climate debts every year. Then, which position should we take on international carbon tax that is under discussion or already has been practiced in some countries.

We emphasize not only the principle of climate justice and we actively believe also in actively intervening in specific policies. Because even if we cannot make a fully stable climate, political intervention carried out through various alternative approaches is helpful in the popularization of climate justice. Carbon tax could be (a certain amount of) fair and effective tool, if it is carried out with direct regulation policy through administrative means. Although faithful to the principle that demands that developed countries, companies and the rich should reduce first, we still need to examine how to radicalize taxation, tax targets, and tax revenue practice method with reference to some examples of European countries. If we fail to do this, the effort would only leave certain members of the bourgeoisie who emit huge amounts of carbon play the carbon price game. 

So, we should make a strategy to attain carbon hegemony without having to bury ourselves in reformist reform and we should also make it clear that carbon tax is not a‘panacea’.

Written by Jung-pil, Lee (Researcher:

2. Opinions
Trade union movement standing up to the challenge of climate change

Trade unions have for some years made strenuous efforts to stand up to the challenge of global climate change crisis, to achieve a ‘just transition’ to a low-carbon green economy and society, and to support and protect workers’ jobs and livelihood in the transition process. For example, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has been actively participating in a series of recent UNFCCC meetings and persistently tried to insert its key demands into the agreement of each UNFCCC COP meeting, including ‘jus transition’, ‘decent work’, and ‘quality jobs.’ UNFCCC COP16, Cancun, Mexico, 29 November – 10 December 2010, was no exception in this regard. ITUC, together with its delegation from all over the world, energetically lobbied for the inclusion of its key demands into the COP16 agreement, which had been unexpectedly deleted from the draft COP16 agreement. ITUC succeeded in securing some of its key demands in the final draft of the COP16 agreement.

For ITUC positions on climate change,

For ITUC report on COP16,

Encouraged and inspired by global trade union movement, trade unions in Korea have been gradually awakened to the crucial importance of tackling climate change as a union agenda. In the lead up to the COP16 in Cancun, on 23 November 2010, trade unions in Korea issued a statement demanding a fair, ambitious, and binding agreement at the UNFCCC COP16, Cancun, Mexico. Two national union centers in Korea, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), joined forces in issuing the statement. As a small sign of changing attitudes of Korean trade unions towards climate change, we could mention the case of Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU), an affiliate of KCTU. In May 2011 KPTU is going to be reborn as an industrial union and a new draft platform for KPTU as an industrial union includes the goal of ‘contributing to the achievement of just transition based on ecological values and social justice.” Last December KPTU also sent an officer as an ITUC delegation for the COP16, Cancun, Mexico. 

Written by Young-Bae, Chang (member of board of directors: )

3. New Report
- Metal workers’ job crises and‘Just transition’ strategy
: Focusing on the transition cases from shipbuilding industry to wind energy industry

Korean shipbuilding industry has been one of the leading export industry and in the 1st status of the world from 2003 to 2008, but suffered from 2008 world financial crisis and overinvestment. Meanwhile, China who has abundant resources and capital with the basis of low labour cost is catching up with Korea and even exceeding in the amount of shipbuilding orders received in 2009.

To manage with the crisis of shipbuilding industry, Korean government announced the structural adjustment program in April 2009. The program consists of kicking out poor shipbuilders and financing for good shipbuiliding companies.
In the process of such a structural adjustment, contingent worker's were laid off and there were not alternative structural transition program at all. Metal workers union containing major shipbuilding companies could not respond strategically and just pay attention to the short term fighting to depend existing employment.

By the way, the cases of European shipbuilding industry attracts our eyes, which converted from declining shipbuilding to renewable energy facility production especially of wind turbine to overcome the crisis. For example, German wind turbine producer Siag-Schaaf took over the plant and workers of the prominent shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp while insuring job and income of workers.

In Korea, major ship builders like Hyundai heavy industries, Samsung heavy industries, DSME(Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering) is rushing into wind energy industry. But those seem to be not so much a 'green transition' from carbon-intensive one to renewable industry as somewhat management diversification. And in those changes, there are lacking of reskilling shipbuilding workers for renewable manufacturing, and no dialogue or negotiation between union and management.

Korean situation for the transition from shipbuilding to wind energy is matured in the physical and technical aspects, but some economic and social factors need to be satisfied. Most of all, there is little matching program of supply and need between domestic and foreign side and at the level of local and regional.

From now on, we should consider that climate policy itself will not make ship building industry out of date, rather some new opportunities such as offshore wind power boom will induce industrial transition. Instead of approaching 'just transition' of shipbuilding industry mechanically, we have to understand that it is the stage of assessing the condition and possibility of transition. But even in this stage, the potential of transition for some Korean small and medium shipbuilders with weak job stability to find the way out of crisis in wind industry should be appreciated. And additional research and union industrial policy have to be developed to make full use of such a potential.

4. Act on.
- ECPI and other Korea civil societies claim to stop the ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ and try to help Japan in certain ways


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