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Fossil Fuel Subsidies: A Global Scandal

Climate

World Wildlife Fund

The continued maintenance of fossil fuel subsidies is a global scandal and governments should work to transform these subsidies into financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy, says World Wildlife Fund (WWF), responding to a report released yesterday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF report, Energy Subsidy Reform: Lessons and Implications, shines a much needed light on the dark side of fossil fuel subsidies.

The IMF assessment shows that global fossil fuel subsidies—including carbon pollution impacts from fossil fuels—account for almost nine percent of all annual country budgets, amounting to a staggering US$1.9 trillion, much higher than previously estimated. And importantly, says WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative leader Samantha Smith, the report confirms that the poorest 20 percent of developing countries only marginally benefit from energy subsidies.

“Removing these subsidies would reduce carbon pollution by 13 percent. This would be a major step toward reducing the world’s carbon footprint. Maintenance of these subsidies is a global scandal, a crime against the environment and an active instrument against clean energy and technological innovation," said Smith. "We strongly support transforming fossil fuel subsidies into an effective scheme for financing energy efficiency and renewables and making sure that the poor in developing countries benefit appropriately and receive clean, affordable and reliable energy."

The IMF findings show that almost half of fossil fuel subsidies occur in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations. The U.S., with about US$500 billion annually, accounts for more than one quarter of all global fossil fuel subsidies, followed by China with almost US$300 billion and Russia (US$115 billion).

WWF Global Energy Policy Director Stephan Singer says industrialized countries are responsible for the lion’s share of fossil fuel subsidies and should act now to stop them.

“If they were to abolish those subsidies and reform towards renewables and energy efficiency investments, it would more than triple present global investment into renewables,” said Singer. “And that is what is needed for a world powered by 100 percent sustainable renewables.”

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE and RENEWABLES pages for more related news on this topic.

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"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

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"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

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The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.