Despite repeated commitments to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, a new report by Oil Change International found that G7 countries continue to pump billions of dollars into dirty energy sources each year.
In June 2014, the leaders of the G7 reaffirmed their 2009 pledge to minimize the effects of climate change and ‘phase out’ subsidies for fossil fuels.
However, the report (pdf) finds that, rather than invest in sustainable alternative energies, G7 countries are dedicating at least $8 billion US dollars of taxpayers money annually into expanding fossil fuel reserves, with another $10 billion given in subsidies by government banks and institutions for funding fossil fuel exploration.
To ensure the average global temperature does not dangerously rise by more than 2ºC, it is imperative that at least two thirds of existing reserves remain untouched.
Currently,the world’s reserve of fossil fuels is four times larger than is safe to use, so it is illogical for the G7 to divert huge amounts away from public services in favour of funding ‘unburnable carbon’, warns Oil Change International
Exploration subsidies, which fund the never ending search for new and often risky fossil fuel sources, are particularly harmful. There is no feasible way these new fuels could be used without serious negative environmental damage.
Shakuntala Makhijani, Researcher at Oil Change International said:
Given that the world already has significantly more fossil fuel reserves than it can afford to burn, it makes no sense to use public funds to incentivize prospecting for more unburnable carbon. It’s time our governments stop using our money to buy the shovels that are digging our climate hole even deeper.
The United States, the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas, is the worst offender for subsidies – followed by the UK and Japan.
Each year the US subsidises a whopping $5.1 billion worth of fossil fuel exploration and even greater costs are incurred due to the effects of fossil fuel on the climate, local environment and health.
The detrimental effects of burning fossil fuels causes an extra $120 billion a year in health-related costs.
President Obama has pushed for cutting fossil fuel subsidies every year he has been in office.
In 2013 Obama took unilateral action to end support for the coal industry. However, Congress have endeavoured to roll back this process, attempting to block the cuts by never agreeing to vote on or approve them.
By continuing to expand oil, gas and coal reserves and search for more fossil fuels, the G7 are shirking their environmental and social responsibilities, whilst demonstrating to less wealthy nations that they have little intention of putting climate change at the top of their agendas.
Meanwhile, Oil Change International says the lack of transparency regarding these subsidies means that it is hard to push for meaningful reform and hold the G7 countries accountable.
It calls on the G7 to move away from their reliance on fossil fuels and eliminate subsidies.
Ending fossil fuel subsidies can only have a positive impact, by increasing the amount of taxpayer money available for public services,reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions and helping to ensure our planet is ‘climate safe’.