Governments around the world are contributing to catastrophic climate change and blocking renewable energy alternatives by subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. A new report from British think tank the Overseas Development Institute finds that producers of oil, gas and coal received $500 billion in government subsidies in 2011, with the top 11 “rich-country emitters” — the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan and Poland — spending $74 billion on subsidies.
Image © Draw the Line at Tar Sands
“Fossil fuel subsidies undermine international efforts to avert dangerous climate change and represent a drain on national budgets,” the report states. The subsidies vary by country. For example, in 2011 Germany handed out €1.9 billion in financial assistance to the hard coal sector, while the U.S. provided a $1 billion fuel tax exemption for farmers and spent $500 million on fossil energy research and development. The United Kingdom gave £280 million in tax credits to the oil and gas sector. The report concludes that these fossil fuel subsidies outweigh support to developing countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a seven to one ratio. The report also states that “eliminating rich-country fossil fuel subsidies would enable a low-carbon transition while unlocking new opportunities for energy cooperation.”
A recent UNICEF report found that children in the poorest countries will bear the brunt of a warming world. The devastation in the Philippines from Super Typhoon Haiyan is a preview of what is to come. The fossil fuel subsidies report and climate disaster in the Philippines comes as world leaders gather in Warsaw, Poland this week for the U.N. Climate Summit COP-19.
The report recommends removing all fossil fuel subsidies, stating that a “subsidy phase-out will be essential to enable the scale of investment required for the transition to low-carbon economies.”
Lead image via Roger Keagle