'Talk is Cheap': G20 Nations Invested 4X More in Fossil Fuels Than in Renewables
Climate action will be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, with some world leaders planning to confront President Donald Trump about his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. However, a group of environmental organizations proclaim all this "talk is cheap."
That's because G20 countries are pouring nearly four times more public finance into fossil fuels than into renewable energy projects, according to a new analysis released by Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and the WWF European Policy Office.
Data from Oil Change International's Shift the Subsidies database shows that G20 countries provided about $71.8 billion of public financing annually for fossil fuel projects between 2013-2015, compared to only $18.7 billion for renewable energy. Public finance is defined as grants, loans, equity, and loan guarantees from government-owned financial institutions.
This finding directly contradicts the commitments these same governments made during the Paris climate talks to keep global warming to well below 2°C and limit warming to 1.5°C, the authors pointed out. By continuing these sweetheart deals for dirty energy projects, the world could blow past these climate targets.
"Our research shows that the G20 still hasn't put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the clean energy transition. If other G20 governments are serious about standing up to Trump's climate denial and meeting their commitments under the Paris agreement, they need to stop propping up the outdated fossil fuel industry with public money," said Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International and one of the report's authors. "The best climate science points to an urgent need to transition to clean energy, but public finance from G20 governments drags us in the opposite direction. We must stop funding fossils and shift these subsidies."
According to the report, the U.S.ranked fourth in contributions, with $6 billion per year going to oil, gas and coal industries between 2013-2015. That's four times the amount that went to clean energy, which received $1.3 billion.
The top contributor to fossil fuel industries was Japan, which funneled $16.5 billion to fossil fuels per year versus $2.7 billion to green energy. China and South Korea followed Japan on the list.
Germany, which is regarded as a climate action champion, ranked fifth on the list after providing $3.5 billion of public finance for fossil fuels compared to $2.4 billion for renewables.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said climate change was a top priority at the G20 summit.
"Since the decision of the US to quit the Paris climate agreement, we are more determined than ever to make it successful," Merkel said. "We must tackle this existential challenge, and we cannot wait until every last person on earth has been convinced of the scientific proof."
But Kate DeAngelis, international policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, said that "G20 leaders may like to talk about climate, but it's clear their talk is cheap."
"While praising each other for investing in renewable energy at home, they bankroll billions of dollars for dirty fossil fuel projects in developing countries," DeAngelis continued. "G20 leaders' handouts to fossil fuel companies destroys the health of people and the planet. G20 countries must commit to transitioning from brown to green, once and for all."
Nicole Ghio, a senior international campaign representative at the Sierra Club, had similar criticisms.
"When the G20 countries committed to the Paris agreement, they made a pact with the world that they would take meaningful steps to reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis," Ghio said. "But as we now know, these countries have been talking out of both sides of their mouths. It's unconscionable that any nation would continue to waste public funds on fossil fuels when clean energy sources like wind and solar are not only readily available, but are more cost-effective and healthier for families and communities across the globe. It is past time for G20 nations to stop subsidizing fossil fuels once and for all."
The goal of the report is to encourage countries to invest more in renewables and less in fossil fuels.
"The Paris agreement should lead policymakers to refocus public finance on energy savings and sustainable renewable energy, which actually offer effective solutions to our future energy challenges," Sebastien Godinot with the WWF European Policy Office said.
By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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