Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

World's Biggest Economies Still Backing Fossil Fuels

Energy

The governments of the world’s major industrialized countries, the G20 group, are providing more than US$450 billion a year to support the production of fossil fuels.

That is almost four times the entire world’s subsidies to the rapidly growing renewable energy sector, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates total global renewables subsidies in 2013 at $121bn.

The G20 group agreed in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “in the medium term,” a pledge that was repeated at its 2014 meeting in Brisbane.

But the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and campaign group Oil Change International (OCI) have now published a detailed analysis of G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production.

Empty Promises

Their “Empty Promises” report on G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production says researchers found that G20 support to fossil fuel production now totals $452bn.

The report singles out the UK for particular criticism, saying it “stands out as the only G7 nation significantly ramping up its support for the fossil fuel industry, with even more tax breaks and industry support handed out to companies operating in the North Sea in 2015.”

A similar report by the two groups a year ago said G20 subsidies for fossil fuel exploration alone amounted to an estimated $88bn annually.

The G20’s continued support for fuels—whose use increases greenhouse gas emissions and increases the risk of irreversible and catastrophic climate change—ignores the global imperatives to keep most current fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

It also disregards the faltering economic returns from coal and from oil and gas reserves, which are increasingly difficult to exploit.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says at least three-quarters of proven reserves of oil, gas and coal must stay in the ground in order for the planet to have a two-in-three chance of remaining below the internationally-agreed 2C climate change threshold.

There is continuing scientific debate over how much of the world’s fossil fuels should remain unexploited, with many estimates ranging from a fifth to a third. The UN climate change conference in Paris, starting on Nov. 30, is likely to see a keen debate on the issue.

The ODI/OCI report, published before the G20 summit in the Turkish city of Antalya, examines three types of G20 government support in 2013 and 2014—the most recent years with comparable data.

It looks at national subsidies extended through direct spending and tax breaks; investment by state-owned enterprises, both domestically and internationally; and public finance extended through, for example, loans from government-owned banks and financial institutions.

Tax Breaks

Japan provided more public finance for fossil fuel production in 2013 and 2014 than any other G20 country, averaging $19bn per year—$2.8bn of that for coal alone. The U.S. provided more than $20bn in national subsidies, despite calls from President Obama to scrap support to fossil fuels.

Russia provided almost $23bn in national subsidies—the highest of all the G20 countries—and China’s investment in fossil fuel production at home and abroad amounted to almost $77bn annually.

Turkey, this year’s G20 host, is giving tax breaks to support its program of building more coal plants than any other OECD country, potentially raising its own greenhouse gas emissions by 94 percent over the next 15 years.

At the end of September, the U.S. and China agreed to give priority to the establishment of a firm deadline for the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies as a key task during China’s G20 presidency in 2016.

The report recommends G20 governments adopt strict timelines for the phase-out of fossil fuel production subsidies, increase transparency through improved reporting of the subsidies and transfer government support to wider public goods, including low-carbon development and universal energy access.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

What is COP21? Find Out in This 2 Minute Video

25 Million Americans at Risk From Oil Train Traffic in Their Communities

Exxon + 49 Other Big Polluters Set to Be Investigated for Causing Extreme Weather Events

Investing in Clean Energy Will Create Millions of Jobs, Increase GDP and Raise Household Incomes

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less