Science Group Supports Creating a Climate Fund with Money from Polluters

Statement by Kathy Mulvey, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Aug 4, 2021

Today, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released a discussion draft bill that would assess an annual fee on fossil fuel companies to raise $500 billion over 10 years for a “Polluters Pay Climate Fund.” The proposal appropriately acknowledges the role that the oil, gas and coal industries have played in blocking climate action and accelerating climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The fund would be used to advance a comprehensive response to climate change, including investments in environmental justice communities facing fossil fuel-driven climate impacts, such as sea level rise, extreme flooding and a more severe wildfire season.

Below is a statement by Kathy Mulvey, the accountability campaign director in the Climate and Energy Program at UCS, who spoke at the press conference Van Hollen held today to announce the proposal.

“Cities around the country are being battered by climate change caused by the products and actions of fossil fuel companies. ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies have engaged in a decades-long campaign to spread climate disinformation to the public and policymakers and to avoid changing their destructive business model. Now, the same companies are doing all they can to shift the blame – and costs – to consumers. Fossil fuel companies need to pay their fair share to deal with the mess they’ve created.

“While the proposed legislation alone cannot hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the full scale of the lasting climate damages they’ve caused and continue to cause or for the lies they’ve told and continue to tell, even to their own investors, it’s a positive step forward. The mandated contributions through the legislation should be a floor, not a ceiling, for what companies must pay to help communities respond to climate change. Fossil fuel company payments toward a climate fund must be additive to, and not a substitute for, existing federal and state funding to help communities become more resilient to climate impacts. And states and communities still must be able to seek justice through the courts, where fossil fuel companies and their trade associations are being sued over climate damages and fraud.

“It is especially important that the legislation specifies that at least 40 percent of the funds would go to disadvantaged communities that have borne the brunt of climate change and environmental racism. Black, brown and Indigenous communities are living with the life-threatening consequences of the fossil fuel industry’s decades of pollution and disinformation. It’s past time these companies begin to face the consequences of their own actions.”

For additional information, see:

A blog by Mulvey on the implications of the legislation.

UCS-led studies quantifying fossil fuel companies’ contributions to temperature increase, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

The column “Fighting Climate Change Might Have Just Gotten Easier” in Scientific American, by Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science at UCS, and Delta Merner, the lead for the UCS Science Hub for Climate Litigation, on a court ruling that Royal Dutch Shell must reduce its carbon emissions.