'Make fossil fuel producers pay levy'

An Australian think tank wants a $1 levy per tonne of carbon pollution on fossil fuel production.
An Australian think tank wants a $1 levy per tonne of carbon pollution on fossil fuel production.

A new plan to make companies producing fossil fuels foot the bill for the escalating costs of natural disasters in Australia has been welcomed by NSW mayors who've had to watch ordinary people in their communities pay the price of devastating bushfires.

The Australia Institute on Wednesday released a proposal for a National Climate Disaster Fund, to be raised by imposing a $1 levy per tonne of carbon pollution on fossil fuel production in Australia.

The think tank estimates the fund would raise around $1.5 billion a year, with natural disasters currently costing the nation approximately $13 billion a year.

The institute says these costs will only continue to rise as the frequency and intensity of fires, floods, droughts and heatwaves increases due to climate change.

"Australia urgently needs a dedicated, independently-administered fund to cope with the ever increasing costs of these disasters," principal adviser Mark Ogge said in a statement.

"A $1 per tonne levy would have virtually no effect on energy prices or coal jobs but would be a huge help to everyone being affected by the damage these activities are causing."

Glen Innes Severn Council mayor Carol Spar, whose community was hit by a deadly bushfire that killed two people in November, says the recent fires have shown the enormous costs of climate change for local communities.

"Every tonne of coal mined ends up as more greenhouse gas in the in the atmosphere, fuelling climate change and making catastrophes like these fires worse," she said in a statement.

"It is staggering that the coal and gas companies that profit from this don't have to pay for any of the costs. Our communities are paying the price for their activities, it's high time they started paying for the damage they are causing."

Similarly, Bellingen mayor Dominc King - whose shire has also been ravaged by fires this year - says his area has never seen conditions like those it's now facing and it is impacting the physical and mental health of people as well as affecting local businesses.

"We also understand that this community will continue to have to deal with these horrific conditions all summer and into the future," he said in a statement.

"Fighting fires on this scale will need a lot more resources, and it's not fair that burden keeps falling on ordinary people and our volunteer firefighters."

Australian Associated Press