G20 fails as fossil fuel subsidies reach $523 billion

By Ron Kotrba | January 17, 2013

As another United Nations Climate Change Conference got under way in Qatar, Nov. 26-Dec. 8, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance criticized G20 leaders for failing to hold up their commitment to phase out the costly fossil fuel subsidies that hurt developing economies and slow the development of alternative fuels. According to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel subsidies reached more than half a trillion dollars this past year, with latest estimates showing subsidies reaching $523 billion in 2011, up from $412 billion in 2010.

Despite the G20 nations committing to eliminate unnecessary fossil fuel subsidies at the 2009 Pittsburgh G20 Summit, these subsidies have increased almost 30 percent. In 2009 when the commitment to eliminate subsidies to both consumption and production were made, fossil fuel subsidies were at $300 billion; they are nearly double that today.

“A $111 billion increase in subsidies in one year underscores the importance of phasing these subsidies out as quickly as possible,” says Bliss Baker, GRFA spokesperson. “It is somewhat perverse that the world continues to subsidize the consumption and production of crude oil at a time of near-record oil prices.” Last year the IEA forecast that fossil fuel subsidies could rise to $660 billion by 2020 if G20 countries did not take immediate action to phase these subsidies out. G20 nations along with the rest of the world met in Qatar at the United Nations Climate Change Conference where the issue of fossil fuel subsidies was not on the agenda.

“The IEA has committed to raising the issue of fossil fuel subsidies in Qatar and the GRFA applauds their efforts,” Baker says. “However, this should not detract from the fact that the G20 has failed to meet their commitment to phase subsidies out. In fact, since making the commitment to phase these distorting subsidies out, they have almost doubled. If the UN and the rest of the world want to combat climate change, the UN Climate Change Conference in Qatar [was] the opportunity to show leadership and end these never-ending subsidies to fossil fuels and move beyond crude oil to a world with sustainable alternatives such as biofuels.”

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