The Bangladesh government’s plan to introduce a carbon tax has drawn criticism from church activists, environmentalists and the business community.
Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith is considering imposing a carbon tax in the next budget due in June, according to local media.
“We are giving special attention to carbon tax as this will play a vital role in protecting the environment,” a senior official from the National Board of Revenue told The Financial Express, a business daily.
But a carbon tax could do more harm than good, said Suklesh George Costa, a senior resource mobilization manager for Caritas.
“It will make power and fertilizer costlier, leading to immense suffering especially for rural farmers,” Costa told ucanews.com.
He said that an imposed carbon tax could affect global funding for local climate change projects.
“The government needs to create another revenue stream before their tenure ends in 2018 and present it as an example to the global community,” he said.
Bangladesh is one of the poorest nations in the world, with nearly half of its 160 million people earning less than two dollars per day, and one of the most vulnerable to climate change.
A carbon tax is a levy imposed on the carbon content of fuels and other products when combusted. Many countries impose a carbon tax on vehicles based on their fuel efficiency.
Bangladesh produces about 0.44 tons of carbon dioxide per person, much lower than 16.4 tons in the United State, 16.3 tons in Australia and 40.5 tons in Qatar, according to World Bank data.
M.A. Matin, secretary of leading environmental group Bangladesh Poribehsh Andolon, said he was suspicious.
“Instead of controlling pollution in the industries, the government wants to go for carbon tax which is just a way to create another income source and legalizes indiscriminate carbon emission,” he said.
Muntakim Ashraf, vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries said carbon tax would harm businesses.
“Carbon tax would definitely cause a price spiral which would surely impact on businesses. Considering the amount of emission in Bangladesh compared to developed countries, it’s unrealistic and irrational to impose a carbon tax,” he added.
Bangladesh is a low-lying country, located in the world’s largest river delta system, making it vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones, flooding and river erosion.
Climate experts predict that if the current trend of global warming continues, sea levels will rise by 1.0-1.5 meters by 2050. If so, Bangladesh would lose 15-20 percent of its coastal area and about 30 million people would be displaced.