On the first anniversary of the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) is promoting innovative legislation that would change Massachusetts tax forms and let taxpayers direct voluntary contributions, over and above their regular payments, to poverty-stricken countries hit hardest by climate change.
The full title of Barrett’s bill is An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Massachusetts taxpayers already contribute over $1 million annually by “checking off” any of six boxes printed on their state income tax forms. Beneficiaries include the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund, the Massachusetts AIDS Fund, and four other good causes. Barrett’s bill proposes a 7th option, the first one to involve hardship outside the U.S. and the first to address climate change.
In 48 of the poorest countries in the world, the LDCF provides resources to reduce the vulnerability of people to extreme weather events and improve resiliency within sectors like water, health, infrastructure and agriculture. In Haiti, for example, as the country combats drought, erosion, and extreme weather, policymakers and key staff receive training in coastal management best practices.
“These 48 countries are the least-equipped to deal with climate change, even as they’re subject to the most devastating impacts,” Barrett said. “Creating this one internationally-oriented check-off does no harm to state programs for our own people, yet fills a critical gap as politicians down in Washington slash foreign assistance to the poorest populations on the planet.”
The Canadian province of Québec directs financial assistance currently to the LDCF. If the Barrett bill is enacted, Massachusetts would become the second “subnational” government in the world, and the first state in the United States, to do likewise.
Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America said, “2018 is projected to be another record-breaking year for climate-related disasters worldwide. Without coercing anyone or mandating anything, this bill gives Massachusetts citizens an opportunity to take direct action to save the lives of people living elsewhere.”