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Bolivia Touts Financial Tax to Fund $100 Billion in Climate Aid

Bolivia is pushing for a tax on international financial transactions to help fund $100 billion of climate change aid that developed countries have pledged to provide by 2020.

Under the plan, countries could opt to charge a 0.01 percent tax on any money coming in from abroad for any transaction, Bolivia’s lead climate negotiator, Pablo Solon, said today in Bonn, where two weeks of United Nations climate talks started yesterday. The money would then be paid into a fund that can disburse aid to any country, Solon said.

The tax is needed to ensure aid pledges are met with new money, said Solon, noting an earlier promise by developed countries to pay $30 billion in climate change aid over the three years 2010 through 2012.

“The famous $30 billion didn’t come to developing countries, not as new aid,” Solon said. A new tax would mean "we will begin to see new fresh money," he said.

Financial transaction taxes are sometimes termed a Tobin tax after James Tobin, the Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist who first suggested the idea in 1971.

Solon’s proposal picks up on one by a UN-appointed panel in November. The group, which included billionaire investor George Soros and Larry Summers, then-director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, said an international financial transactions tax could generate $27 billion a year.

Solon said countries would be able to opt into the system, and that they couldn’t be forced to take part. At the same time, any money flowing from a non-participating country to one that has set up the tax would be subject to the charge.

“In this way we would have a mechanism that has real funds to immediately act in situations like, for example, forest fires, natural disasters,” he said.

Solon also said his country will continue to oppose discussion in the UN talks of the use of “fictitious” carbon markets to help protect forests.

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