Press Releases

Oxfam Ireland Reaction to EU Finance Meeting

LIMITED EU REFORM ALLOWS IRELAND’S HARMFUL TAX REGIMES OFF THE HOOK

8 November 2022

Today, EU finance ministers agreed on the reform of the mandate of the Code of Conduct Group, the body within the Council of the EU that assesses harmful tax regimes and is responsible for the EU tax haven list. This reform updated the definition of harmful tax regimes in EU countries. No progress was made on updating the criteria for the EU tax haven list.

The EU has repeatedly criticised Ireland’s use of harmful tax regimes that allow multinational companies in Ireland avoid tax. In 2020, the European Commission identified Ireland as one of six EU member states that have tax rules or systems that facilitate aggressive tax avoidance.

Reacting to the news, Michael McCarthy Flynn, Oxfam Ireland Head of Policy and Advocacy, said;

“This reform is a slight improvement on the definition of harmful corporate tax regimes. It is broader and will close an important loophole used by companies to dodge paying tax. Yet, the definition remains vague, and only applies in the EU and to new national tax regimes. The process still lacks transparency.

“EU countries must follow up with more stringent guidelines and include all harmful tax regimes, such as patent boxes. Without that, the reform risks becoming another toothless attempt to clamp down on tax havens in Europe.

“We are still waiting on the promise to reform the criteria governing the EU tax haven list.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • In 2019 the European Parliament called on the Commission to regard at least five Member States - Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands - as EU tax havens.
  • In 2020, the European Commission identified six member states - Cyprus, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands - as having tax rules or systems that facilitate aggressive tax planning.
  • Oxfam showed that for three consecutive years, five EU member states, Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands, had economic indicators typical of tax havens (e.g. high levels of Foreign Direct Investment, intellectual property payments, interests, dividends).
  • In July 2020, the European Commission said it would reform the mandate of the Code of Conduct Group (CoCG) - including the definition of harmful tax regimes and the criteria governing the EU tax havens list. Today, EU countries reached an agreement on the definition which was blocked by Hungary and Estonia last December. No progress has been made on the reform to the criteria of the EU tax havens list.
  • The reform:
    • Introduces a broader definition of harmful tax practices as it includes the screening of all harmful tax regimes used by companies to avoid taxes in the EU. Until now, countries could bypass this screening if they set out rules allowing all companies to benefit from tax advantages rather than only including specific sectors;
    • Only applies to general regimes adopted or modified after 2023; and
    • Gives the European Commission the possibility to address requests on harmful tax regimes to EU countries. 
  • Oxfam has consistently criticised the Code of Conduct Group for the weak and unfair criteria used to assess harmful tax regimes in the EU and in blacklisted countries, and for the lack of transparency in the screening process. We call for a stronger definition and assessment of harmful tax regimes and for more transparency and accountability of the group. Read our 2019 briefing note, Off the Hook and our tax briefing to the French presidency of the EU.  Similar recommendations were put forward in a report by the European Parliament in October 2021.
  • Oxfam showed that for three consecutive years, five EU countries (Cyprus, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands) had economic indicators typical of tax havens (e.g. high levels of Foreign Direct Investment, intellectual property payments, interests, dividends).
  • Aggressive corporate tax planning in the EU amounts to 50 - 190 billion euros according to EU studies. A recent study by UNU-WIDER estimated that 1 trillion US dollars (40 percent of global corporate profits) was shifted to tax havens in 2019.

Contact information: Clare Cronin, Oxfam Ireland, 353+87+1952551

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A billionaire emits a million times more greenhouse gases than the average person

Ahead of COP27, Oxfam calls for ambitious and transparent climate action from big business and investors

The investments of just 125 billionaires emit 393 million tonnes of CO2e each year – the equivalent of France – at an individual annual average that is a million times higher than someone in the bottom 90 percent of humanity.

Carbon Billionaires: The investment emissions of the world’s richest people, is a report published by Oxfam today based on a detailed analysis of the investments of 125 of the richest billionaires in some of the world's biggest corporates and the carbon emissions of these investments. These billionaires have a collective $2.4 trillion stake in 183 companies.

The report finds that these billionaires’ investments give an annual average of 3m tonnes of CO2e per person, which is a million times higher than 2.76 tonnes of CO2e which is the average for those living in the bottom 90 percent.

The actual figure is likely to be higher still, as published carbon emissions by corporates have been shown to systematically underestimate the true level of carbon impact, and billionaires and corporates who do not publicly reveal their emissions, so could not be included in the research, are likely to be those with a high climate impact.

“These few billionaires together have ‘investment emissions’ that equal the carbon footprints of entire countries like France, Egypt or Argentina,” said Nafkote Dabi, Climate Change Lead at Oxfam. “The major and growing responsibility of wealthy people for overall emissions is rarely discussed or considered in climate policy making. This has to change. These billionaire investors at the top of the corporate pyramid have huge responsibility for driving climate breakdown. They have escaped accountability for too long. 

“Emissions from billionaire lifestyles, their private jets and yachts are thousands of times the average person, which is already completely unacceptable. But if we look at emissions from their investments, then their carbon emissions are over a million times higher.”

Contrary to average people, studies show the world's wealthiest individuals' investments account for up to 70 percent of their emissions. Oxfam has used public data to calculate the "investment emissions" of billionaires with over 10 percent stakes in a corporation, by allocating them a share of the reported emissions of the corporates in which they are invested in proportion to their stake.

The study also found billionaires had an average of 14 percent of their investments in polluting industries such as energy and materials like cement. This is twice the average for investments in the Standard and Poor 500. Only one billionaire in the sample had investments in a renewable energy company. 

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “With our planet in crisis, no one should be profiting from pollution. COP27 is an opportunity to expose and challenge the role that big business and their rich investors are playing in driving the global climate crisis.

“Billionaire investments shape our future economy – but they also shape our future as a planet. By choosing to back high carbon infrastructure, billionaires are locking in high emissions for decades to come. Whereas our study found that if the billionaires sampled moved their investments to a fund with stronger environmental and social standards, it could reduce the intensity of their emissions by up to four times.

“Governments, including Ireland’s, have a key role to play in demanding change by publishing emission figures for the richest people, regulating investors and corporates to slash carbon emissions and taxing wealth and polluting investments.”

Currently there is no regulatory mechanism to hold private sector investments in Ireland accountable for their climate obligations.  Last month, three French NGOs, including Oxfam France, took the first step towards an unprecedented climate litigation case - the first in the world to target a commercial bank, BNP Paribas, for its high-risk activities in the oil and gas sector. Oxfam Ireland has called for similar corporate accountability legislation to be brought forward in Ireland.

Oxfam has estimated that a wealth tax on the world’s super-rich could raise $1.4 trillion a year, vital resources that could help developing countries – those worst hit by the climate crisis – to adapt, address loss and damage and carry out a just transition to renewable energy. According to the UNEP adaptation costs for developing countries could rise to $300 billion per year by 2030. Africa alone will require $600 billion between 2020 to 2030.

At home, Oxfam Ireland is calling for a wealth tax of 1.5% on wealth over €5 million and 2% above net-wealth of €50 million, which would generate €5 billion – revenue that could address national issues and allow us to uphold our international commitments, including on tackling the climate crisis. In addition to a wealth tax, Oxfam Ireland proposes a broad windfall tax on the excess profits of companies in all sectors of the economy, not just the energy sector.

The report says that many corporations are off track in setting their climate transition plans, including hiding behind unrealistic and unreliable decarbonisation plans with the promise of attaining net zero targets only by 2050. Fewer than one in three of the 183 corporates reviewed by Oxfam are working with the Science Based Targets Initiative. Only 16 percent have set net zero targets.

“To meet the global target of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, humanity must significantly reduce carbon emissions, which will necessitate radical changes in how investors and corporations conduct business and public policy,” concluded Dabi.

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to Editors

  • Download Oxfam’s report “Carbon Billionaires”.
  • Oxfam began with a list of the 220 richest people in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and worked with data provider Exerica to identify a) the percentage ownership these billionaires held in corporations b) the scope 1&2 emissions of these corporations. To calculate the investment portfolios of individual billionaires, we used the analysis by Bloomberg, who provide detailed breakdowns of the sources of billionaire wealth. 
  • There were no Irish billionaires featured in the sample.
  • The estimate on the money that could be raise on wealth tax on millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires, is through using data from Wealth X and Forbes.
  • Recent data from Oxfam’s research with the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that the wealthiest 1 percent of humanity are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50 percent and that by 2030, their carbon footprints are set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.
  • The GHS protocol greenhouse accounting standards widely used globally spells out the three categories of gas emissions associated with companies as follows: Scope 1 are direct emissions from the company’s operations. Scope 2 are indirect, where the emissions take place elsewhere. Scope 3 are all other indirect emissions, this includes everything from emissions in the company's supply chains to employee commuting, to the use of the products they sell by consumers.
  • For more on the climate litigation case in France see here
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From gadgets galore to recycled birdhouses -online and in-store, Oxfam has all you need for Christmas 2022

Oxfam Ireland have officially relaunched their online tech and gadgets shop in time for Christmas 2022, calling on savvy shoppers to do something different this festive season by giving gifts that support both people and planet.

The online shop boasts brand new donated tech products at unbelievable prices with big discounts across the range. Each gift makes a lasting impact by raising vital funds for Oxfam’s global work to beat poverty. 

And customers won’t just find gifts that do good online. In Oxfam’s shops across the island of Ireland, the Sourced by Oxfam range contains an abundance of festive food, gifts and eco-products that are made with care, protect the planet, and help the women and men who produce them to earn a decent living – providing them with a way to lift themselves out of poverty.

Present ideas in this year’s gift range include gifts for cats, dogs and bird lovers:

  • Recycled Paper Birdhouse Ball €17.00 / £14.00: The iconic birdhouse ball, made by Fair Trade company Prokritee in Bangladesh is a great gift for bird lovers wishing to provide a stylish residence for their feathered friends. Handmade from recycled newspapers and magazines, making each one unique. It features a hanging loop and a varnished exterior to help keep its new residents dry and cosy.
  • Cats & A Dog Puzzle €20.00 / £17.00: A jigsaw with a twist: no two shapes are the same, and each piece is a cat (except for one that's a dog). Hours of maddening fun! Charming illustrations by Léa Maupetit, a French illustrator living and working in Paris.

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “This Christmas, we’re asking people to really spread goodwill by shopping more sustainably with us in person at one of our 46 shops across the island of Ireland or on our online shop.

“An Oxfam gift has many recipients – those who directly receive the gift and those whom the gift supports, from small business owners and farmers in Malawi and Uganda to communities in crisis in places like Yemen.”

In Yemen, almost three quarters of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance with over 17 million facing hunger. Families already on the brink of famine now face a deadly winter freeze. By shopping with Oxfam Ireland this Christmas, people are making a real difference for people most in need in Yemen and beyond.

“We have gifts in every price range from tasty little stocking fillers to some amazing value in high tech gadgetry at our online tech shop. For example, a Sony Handycam now €952, when the recommended retail price is €1588,” McIlwaine continued.

Finally, Oxfam also offer their Unwrapped alternative gift card range. With Unwrapped, you are guaranteed to find the perfect card – be it for a winter birthday or wedding, or a quick hello or season’s greetings - in support of a cause you or your recipient care about, such as climate change or access to education. People can add a personal message to their gift card either online (e-card) or by hand (Oxfam post you out your Unwrapped card). 

McIlwaine concluded: “Last year, thanks to the generous support of people across the island of Ireland, we reached 12.2 million people across 12 countries. Why not help continue that life-changing work by shopping with Oxfam this Christmas? Even for one of your gifts this year. Whether that’s your workplace Kris Kringle or family stocking fillers, Oxfam’s shops online and in-store as well as our Unwrapped gift card range have you covered.” 

Shop tech and gadgets at bargain prices at: https://shop.oxfamireland.org/

See Oxfam’s full range of Unwrapped gift cards at: www.oxfamireland.org/unwrapped

Find your local Oxfam Ireland shop here: www.oxfamireland.org/oxfam-shops

ENDS

CONTACT:

Notes to the Editor:

  • A selection of images of Oxfam Ireland’s gifts can be downloaded here.
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Oxfam Ireland call for the Irish Govt to implement climate accountability legislation immediately as ground-breaking litigation case filed in France against BNP Paribas

Three French NGOs, including Oxfam have today taken the first step towards an unprecedented climate litigation case - the first in the world to target a commercial bank for its high-risk activities in the oil and gas sector.

The bank in question, BNP Paribas, had a larger carbon footprint than that of French territory in 2020. This makes them the number one European financier of fossil fuel expansion.

For more than 10 years, Oxfam France, Friends of the Earth France and Notre Affaire à Tous spoke out about the role of the financial sector in fueling the climate crisis. The NGOs engaged intensively with French banks and the French government to prevent dodgy transactions benefiting the coal, oil and gas industries. They are now taking legal action warning BNP Paribas to immediately stop supporting - both directly and indirectly - new fossil fuel projects and comply with the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. 

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Head of Policy and Advocacy of Oxfam Ireland said, “We urgently need the legal basis to take the same sorts of action here in Ireland”.

A similar case cannot currently be taken in Ireland as we haven’t passed business and human rights legalisation to match France's due diligence law. However, as a founding member of the Irish Coalition for Business and Human Rights, Oxfam Ireland has led the call for strong Irish legislation on Business and Human Rights, including climate obligations, as soon as possible, to address these kind of cases and to follow a wave of reform across Europe in this area.

“This type of law is what we are advocating for in Ireland so all corporates including financial institutions can be held accountable for their climate action obligations,” said McCarthy Flynn.

 “We were left with little choice given how defenceless we are against climate change. We in Oxfam recently highlighted that one person is dying in the Horn of Africa every 36 seconds because of climate induced drought.

Meanwhile the biggest oil and gas companies turn a blind eye to the devastation caused and continue to plan dozens of new fossil fuel projects globally. This action aims to cut off the source finance. We see this as vital to prevent future floods and famine,” said Oxfam’s Policy lead.

ENDS

Contact: Clare Cronin, External Communication Manager 353+87+1952551

Notes for Editors

  • The Irish Coalition on Business and Human Rights, with Oxfam Ireland’s support, also addressed the Oireachtas committee on Trade, Enterprise and Employment last week to call for Ireland to state its position publicly in support of strong EU legislation currently in process, while the  also attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today to call for a strong and binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights.
  • Oxfam International Press Release here.
  • Read more, Towards a Lawsuit Against a Funder of Climate Chaos here.

 

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Calls for Ireland to publicly support “Loss and Damage” Funding in the run up to COP 27

A major new report says profits from six fossil fuel companies in the first half of this year would cover the cost of major extreme weather and climate-related events in developing countries – and still leave them with nearly $70 billion in profit.

The Cost of Delay, by Oxfam and the Loss and Damage Collaboration, highlights how rich countries have repeatedly stalled efforts to provide dedicated finance, termed ‘Loss and Damage’ payments, to developing countries bearing the costs of a climate crisis they did little to cause. The report is a collaboration between a group of more than 100 researchers, activists, and policymakers from around the globe.

Oxfam have advocated for the taxing of energy and other major industries on windfall profits to help resource such payments.

Recent years have seen fossil fuel profits rocket while people in some of the poorest places on earth are left to foot the bill of the climate crisis. The report’s full title is ‘The Cost of Delay: Why Finance to Address Loss and Damage must be agreed at COP27.’

A mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ payments was first proposed in 1991.  Delaying and blocking tactics by rich countries have prevented any funding from being agreed to this day, as this report shows.

The ‘Cost of Delay’ report uses the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan this year as an illustration of the challenges.

  • At least 33 million people were directly affected.

  • Costs were estimated at over $30 billion.

  • The UN humanitarian appeal for the floods is set at only $472.3 million (just over one per cent of what is needed)

  • This inadequate appeal is only 19 per cent funded.

The huge gap between what is needed and what is being made available will have to be met by Pakistan. It must take out another IMF loan to help recover from the floods.

In contrast, funds from a Loss and Damage Finance Facility would be new and additional,  and come in the form of grants, to ensure the country was not burdened by debt in the aftermath of a climate-induced disaster.

“It is not too late to end this intolerable injustice,” said Oxfam CEO, Jim Clarken. “COP 27 starts in just two weeks and finance to address loss and damage must be agreed. News that the issue will be on the agenda for COP27 is welcome. An ambitious outcome is critical not only for those dealing with climate impacts in developing countries, but also for maintaining trust and credibility.

“Ireland has a real opportunity to show leadership by publicly supporting a Loss and Damage Facility in the run-up to COP 27.  Ireland’s political support to developing countries on this issue would send a hugely significant message among EU states.”

“We must end this delay. The best time to start was 31 years ago, the next best time is now.”

The report’s release comes a day before civil society representatives and Minister Eamon Ryan appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment and Climate Action to discuss Ireland’s approach to COP 27.

Oxfam Ireland has nominated the Kenyan climate activist, Elizabeth Wathuti, to appear before the Committee.  Elizabeth has been working alongside Oxfam over the last few months documenting the impact of climate breakdown in Africa. She will be attending COP 27 where she will advocate for Loss and Damage funding. She was recently included in Time Magazine’s 100 NEXT list. She was nominated by former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Speaking about the release of the report, Elizabeth Wathuti said “We are witnessing devastating Loss and Damage right now. The impacts of climate inaction are claiming lives and livelihoods, displacing people from their homes, and millions are facing climate-related starvation. As the impacts of climate change start to land, the education and empowerment of women and girls also suffers, climate change is forcing girls out of schools. Loss and Damage is becoming the priority and defining issue for COP27.”

ENDS

Contact Information

For more information or interview requests, please contact: Clare Cronin, External Communications Manager, Oxfam Ireland 353+87+1952551

Notes to editors:

  • The full report ‘The cost of delay: why finance to address Loss and Damage must be agreed at COP27’ is available here. (link will go live on 24 October – pdf available on request)
  • The Loss and Damage Collaboration (L&DC) is a group of practitioners, researchers, activists, creative practitioners and decision makers working together to ensure that vulnerable developing countries, and the vulnerable people and communities within them, have the support they need to address climate change related loss and damage. L&DC represent a range of organisations including the Climate Leadership Initiative: Empowering the New Generation, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN).
  • ‘Loss and damage’ broadly refers to the consequences of climate impacts which cannot be or have not been avoided through mitigation or adaptation. ‘Loss’ can refer to loss of lives, livelihoods or culture and ‘damage’ can be to infrastructure or ecosystems, among other things.
  • Data for the number of extreme weather events, people affected, and deaths were gathered from CRED’s Emergency Disasters database. This is a global database of natural and technological disasters which contains data on the occurrence and effects of more than 21,000 disasters around the world, from 1900 to present.
  • Data for fossil fuel profits of six major fossil fuel companies in the first six months of 2022 was gathered from the publicly reported Q1 and Q2 profits of BP, Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Total and Eni.
  • The costs of extreme weather events in developing countries in the first six months of 2022 were calculated using Aon’s Global Catastrophe Recap: 1H report.
  • Super-profits of the fossil fuel industry from 2000-2019 were estimated using Verbruggen’s 2022 analysis of oil and gas rents, available here. This uses World Bank data, which assesses the annual rents from crude oil, natural gas, and other resources. Numbers are expressed in US dollars in 2020 terms.
  • Data for the economic losses in 55 of the most climate-vulnerable countries between 2000 and 2019 was sourced from the V20’s 2022 report.
  • A methodology note is available for the report here.
  • According to Climate Action Tracker, current policies presently in place around the world are projected to result in about 2.7°C warming above pre-industrial levels.
  • Estimates for loss and damage costs in developing countries by 2030 are from Markandya and González-Eguino’s 2018 analysis.
  • The UN appeal page for the Pakistan flood response is here.
  • Africa emissions from Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions
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