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Swiss step up calls for global CO2 tax

(Keystone)

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger has called for the introduction of an international tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to fight global warming.

Speaking in Nairobi at the United Nations Climate Conference on Wednesday, Leuenberger said that such a levy would help those worst affected by climate change.

The president explained that each individual and business would pay the tax based on their CO2 emissions, with revenue going towards measures mitigating the effects of global warming.

Leuenberger said that it would encourage major producers of CO2 to cut their emissions and provide sufficient funding for the measures.

He added that the levy would also compensate those suffering from climate change. "It is precisely those who so far have contributed the least to the causes who are the most severely affected by [...] global warming," he said.

Leuenberger said it would be major step forward if the conference could discuss the financing and the management of funds for different measures.

In his speech, the president admitted that there had been some progress over the past decade in fighting climate change, but that efforts had been so far insufficient.

"We have waited too long and we have lacked focus in our efforts to get to grips with the problem," he said. "And with major disasters increasing by the day, we have to talk about adaptation, namely how protect ourselves here and now against threats."

Protection

Leuenberger warned that it was no longer enough to tackle the causes of global warming, but that it was also necessary to protect people against imminent harm as well deal with any consequences of climate change.

"We must combine our measures to prevent future global warming with our efforts to tackle the current effects of natural disasters that have occurred," he added.

The Swiss president also encouraged delegates to conclude negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto protocol, which calls for signatories to cut CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Leuenberger said that dealing with climate change was every nation's responsibility, warning that countries that had refused to ratify Kyoto - such as the United States and Australia – should reconsider their decision.

"Even the most powerful of countries cannot brave a natural disaster alone because climate change with all its consequences, such as migratory and refugee movements, knows no borders, not even those of the largest nations," he added.

The president concluded that the fight against global warming was not versus nature, but against shortsighted egoism.

"It is a fight for solidarity, which rises above our differing economic and national interests, to find a common way of reducing the disasters threatening our planet," he said. "If we failed to do so, we and our children would all pay the price."

Opening the meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it would cost less to cut greenhouse gas emissions now than to deal with global warming in the long run.

He also announced a plan by six UN agencies to help Africa receive funds for clean development projects, such as renewable energy and forestry.

swissinfo

In brief

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger is visiting Kenya and Ethiopia from November 13 to 17.

The 12th UN Climate Conference in Nairobi runs until November 17.

Around 6,000 delegates and observers from 190 countries are attending the two-week summit.

Switzerland was the 110th country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2003.

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Key facts

Switzerland's own CO2 law went into effect in 2000.
Its objective is to reduce emissions of CO2 arising from fossil fuels by 10% from 1990 levels by 2010.
The desired reduction should be achieved by voluntary measures, but if they are not adequate, the government can introduce an incentive tax on fossil energy.

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