UN calls for 'immoral' energy companies to face special taxes

UN calls for ‘immoral’ energy companies to face special taxes as they record huge profits off the back of Ukraine war – while households struggle to pay bills

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called energy companies ‘immoral’  
  • He urged governments to impose windfall taxes on their recent huge profits 
  • Seen to be profiting from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and economic chaos 
  • UK energy bills expected to reach a staggering £3,359 per year from October 

The UN chief has called for ‘greedy’ oil and gas companies to have their enormous profits taxed at at time of spiralling energy bills that are wreaking misery on ordinary people.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made his comments as energy prices surge and the big energy firms make record profits off the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has been restricting the flow of Russian gas to Europe in retaliation for Western sanctions, creating an acute energy shortage that has driven prices globally and seen some European cities introduce energy rationing. 

‘This grotesque greed is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people, while destroying our only common home,’ Mr Guterres said.

‘I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits, and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.’ 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was ‘immoral’ for energy firms to be profiting from the Ukraine crisis and called for a one-off windfall tax 

British oil majors BP and Shell have reported record profits. BP broke a 14 year record and Shell broke its record for profits from the April-to-June period

Mr Guterres warned that rocketing energy prices had the potential to destabilise the global economy and usher in ‘a wave of economic, social and political upheaval that would leave no country untouched.’ 

‘Many developing countries – drowning in debt, without access to finance, and struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic – could go over the brink.’

UK energy bills are expected to reach up to a staggering £3,359 per year from October for the average household and to not fall below that level until at least the end of next year.

British oil majors BP and Shell have reported record profits. BP broke a 14 year record and Shell broke its record for profits from the April-to-June period. 

What is a windfall tax? 

It is a one-off tax imposed on a company that is deemed to have profited excessively from a situation that they were not responsible for.

In essence, the profit was ‘unearned’. And in many cases it comes at the expense of wider society.

In this case, BP and Shell are bystander beneficiaries of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on February 24, while the rest of us are being made much poorer.

A previous windfall tax was imposed in 1997 by then-Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown on utility companies formed by Tory privatisations, including on BT, Scottish Power and United Utilities.

Four of the biggest energy firms, Exxon, Chevron, Shell and TotalEnergies, have seen their profits double in the last quarter to nearly $51billion.

After months of prevaricating on the issue, the British government finally approved a windfall tax in July that will see a one-off 25 per cent taxation on energy firm’s profits that is hoped will raise the treasury £25billion.

The government can then put the money towards shielding households from energy bills that otherwise threaten to drive families into debt and poverty. 

Italy has followed suit, but French lawmakers rejected such a move, where energy companies – and therefore profits – are already publicly owned.

But the US has ruled out a windfall tax that was floated by some members of Congress, with lobbyists calling the idea ‘misguided.’

‘Policymakers should be focused on increasing energy supply and reducing costs for Americans,’ Frank Macchiarola, a senior vice president for oil and gas lobby group the American Petroleum Institute, said. 

‘Imposing new taxes on our industry will do the exact opposite and only discourage investment at a time when it’s needed most.’ 

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