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'Talk is Cheap': G20 Nations Invested 4X More in Fossil Fuels Than in Renewables

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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up to Trump's climate denial and meeting their commitments under the Paris agreement, they need to stop propping up the outdated fossil fuel industry with public money," said Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International and one of the report's authors.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.

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