Turkey, currently president of the G20, spends up to $1.6 billion on fossil fuel subsidies annually, a new report from Oil Change International and 350.org shows. The G20 as a whole is still doling out US$770 billion per year to fossil fuel companies, despite its 2009 promise to stop. While many G20 members are showing ambition on climate change, they continue to funnel vast subsidies to the oil, coal and gas sectors. According to Alex Doukas, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International:
“Giving handouts to fossil fuel producers takes money away from other urgent priorities like education, health, and clean energy. These subsidies pollute the air we breathe and drive climate change – and they risk sticking people in G20 countries with obsolete, dirty energy sources for decades to come.”
In the run-up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Antalya, Turkey in November, to be held shortly before the crucial UN climate talks in Paris, Turkey can be the first to walk its talk by beginning to phase out subsidies to fossil fuel producers. According to Mahir Ilgaz of 350.org:
“The dangers of climate change were once again highlighted by the floods we had in Hopa, Turkey over the past weeks. What a contradiction it is that we continue to subsidize fossil fuels when we should be fighting against climate change. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) which is tasked with protecting our citizens from disasters such as the flood in Hopa had a total budget of around 1 billion TLs for 2014. By contrast, the subsidies for fossil fuels can be as high as three times that amount. We have to put a stop to fossil fuel subsidies now.”
With a rapidly growing population, Turkey is looking for energy solutions. Banking on carbon-pumping coal is not a sustainable or wise answer. With snap elections approaching, and with his country currently holding the G20 presidency, Turkish leader Erdoğan can steer his country in the right direction by embracing its huge renewable energy potential and doing away with support for fossil fuels. If other G20 governments follow suit, they could send a signal of real change at a pivotal moment.