Green groups tell G20 ministers to stop fossil fuel subsidies

Turkish prime minister urged to focus on phasing out “inefficient” fossil fuel funds, in letter from 39 organisations

Pic: arbyreed/Flickr

Pic: arbyreed/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

Green groups have petitioned the G20 finance ministers to stop subsidising fossil fuel exploration as they meet in Istanbul to discuss the state of the global economy.

The G20 agreed in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but progress has been slow.

In a letter to Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, 39 organisations from across Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the US called for the meeting to set out a strict timeline for the phase-out of subsidies.

A recent report by the Overseas Development Institute found that these 20 major economies – including the UK, US, China and Japan – are still spending around US$88 billion a year on finding new oil, coal and gas reserves.

“We know that existing fossil fuel reserves are already far beyond what our climate can withstand,” said David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International.

Scientists estimate two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to maintain a good chance of limiting temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels – the internationally agreed target of the UN’s climate body.

The green groups argued it is “highly inefficient” to be funding exploration for new reserves that cannot be safely burnt, when this money could instead be spent on climate action at home and internationally.

Rich countries have pledged to mobilise US$100 billion every year to help poor countries adapt to climate change and decarbonise their economies, as well as reduce emissions domestically. In 2014, they managed to raise less than a tenth of this.

Politics

Getting rid of the subsidies is a matter of political will, added Turnbull. “In the US, Congress is so far from taking action on this, despite President [Barack] Obama proposing subsidy elimination in his budget year after year,” he said.

EU finance ministers should take the lead in ensuring fossil fuel subsidies are phased out, said Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network.

“This will allow the EU to strengthen its role in international climate negotiations and improve the odds of a successful climate agreement in Paris.”

This Paris deal is set to be signed in December this year. Diplomats are in Geneva this week to work on the draft of the text.

Politicians could also show their commitment to a phase-out by discussing it at interim climate talks in June, suggested Turnbull.

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