Climate of betrayal: fossil fuel subsidies cost $5.9 trillion in 2020

Dec 16, 2021
Coal mine
(Image: Unsplash)

Despite promises of tackling climate change, governments around the world are still allowing new oil, gas and coal mines.

As indicated by the International Monetary Fund, greenhouse gas emissions are funded world-wide by government subsidies of $5.9 trillion in 2020, about 6.8 per cent global GDP, expected to rise to 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2025, or $11 million a minute. In the view of some scientists, fuel subsidies are “adding fuel to the fire of the climate crisis”.

Hollow words by dignitaries at COP-out-26 may have led many to believe “leaders” are serious when they raise the alarm of “one minute to midnight”, while at the same time allowing the development of new oil, gas and coal mines enhancing the accelerating trend toward an inhabitability of large parts of the planet. The consequences of the continued transfer of extractable carbon to the atmosphere and oceans were summed up by James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist:

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a very different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes.”

He said: “This equates 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year.”

According to The Washington Post‘s Climate 202 newsletter, the Biden administration has approved more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands per month than the Trump administration did during the its first three years.

In Europe, the year 2020 was supposed to be when the European Union would launch its ambitious plan to tackle the climate crisis, so why does Europe sabotage its own climate goals by subsidising the fossil sector by more than €137 billion per year? (Figure 1)

Banks continue to finance fossil fuels while signing up to net zero pledges. The nations that make up the G7 have pumped billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than they have into clean energy since the COVID-19 pandemic, despite promises of a green recovery. As the UK prepares to host the G7 summit, new analysis reveals that the countries attending committed $189 billion to support oil, coal and gas between January 2020 and March 2021. By comparison, the same countries, the UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan, spent $147 billion on clean energy.

In Australia, business as usual continued, where fossil fuel subsidies reached $10.3 billion in 2020-21. Plans are made for a huge Beetaloo gas field in the Northern Territory. The Galilee coal project is proceeding and the Adani coal project gets ready to ship coal. Coal and gas works, if approved, would result in a nearly 30 per cent annual increase in emissions within Australia.

$5.9 trillion could have contributed substantially to mitigation of and adaptation to global warming. Who or what would save nature and humanity from the accelerating destruction of the liveable atmosphere and oceans?

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