MPs call for UK to ‘eliminate’ fossil fuel subsidies at UN climate talks in Qatar

By Ed King

A panel of MPs says the UK government should push for an end to fossil fuel subsidies at the next round of UNFCCC talks in Qatar.

Global fossil fuel consumption subsidies in 2010 amounted to over $400 billion. Critics say they under-price the true cost of oil and gas while putting renewable technologies at an acute disadvantage.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee do acknowledge the role subsidies play in developing countries – especially India – and call on the Government to support ‘pro-poor interventions’ to raise standards of living while cutting subsidies, especially in the developed world.

According to the International Energy Agency the elimination of subsidies could potentially save 750m tonnes of CO2 a year by 2015.

India pumped $23 billion into subsidizing fossil fuels in 2007 - the fifth largest contribution in the world

The #endfossilfuelsubsidies campaign that ran during the Rio+20 conference enjoyed high-profile support – but failed to deliver any policy commitments.

Paragraph 225 in the final text invited “others to consider rationalizing inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by removing market distortions, including restructuring taxation and phasing out harmful subsidies”.

International ambition

MPs also urge the UK and Europe to adopt more ambitious decarbonisation policies ahead of COP18 to ensure they can negotiate from a position of strength.

They call on the UK government and Europe to show ‘political leadership’ push for an EU-wide 30% emissions reduction target on 1990 levels by 2020.

The COP18 climate talks in Doha at the end of this year are expected to lay the foundations for a new binding international agreement in 2015, which would replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2020.

Despite the current economic crisis afflicting Europe, Energy and Climate Change Committee chairman Tim Yeo said it’s vital the bloc demonstrates unity and purpose ahead of Doha.

“Europe can be proud of the leadership it has showed on climate change: introducing the world’s first emissions trading scheme and keeping the Kyoto Protocol alive when it could have collapsed,” he said.

“It must now show leadership again by setting a more ambitious goal to bolster the chances of a new agreement being reached in 2015.

“The EU’s current 20% carbon reduction target by 2020 is no longer sufficiently ambitious or challenging and will be easily reached because of the recession.”

“2015 needs to be the year in which an agreement is reached to give the world a fighting chance of keeping temperature rises below dangerous levels.”

Negotiations over increasing the EU’s emission reduction target to 30% are ongoing. Poland appears to be the most reluctant country to commit to such a move, given its reliance on coal for electricity production.

The next round of EU ministerial talks are expected to take place in September, when the issue will be back on the agenda.

The publication comes two days after a critical report from the same committee focusing on the draft energy bill. This accused the UK government of failing to consider climate change targets when developing a new energy strategy.

It said government objectives appeared ‘vacuous’, ignored the potential of renewables and energy efficiency measures and could encourage a new ‘dash for gas’.

Today’s report says leading politicians have not done enough to explain why it is essential the country embarks on a ‘decarbonisation’ strategy.

“The UK Government has not engaged sufficiently with the public on the details of how the UK’s emission reduction targets could be achieved,” it says.

“More could be done to convince the public that decarbonising electricity generation and electrifying transport will, in the long term, be financially beneficial.”

Other recommendations:

-Focusing diplomatic and negotiation efforts on the Durban Platform with the aim of finding a fair and equitable global agreement.

-Improving monitoring reporting and verification systems, as it is ‘more likely countries can apply pressure to others by naming and shaming rather than trying to enforce pledges’.

-Working with other forums along with the UNFCCC such as the GLOBE World Summit of Legislators.

-Resolving legislative issues that are obstructing the work of REDD+ and investigate why the disbursement of funds into REDD+ projects has been so disappointing.

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