Wealthy nations' fossil fuel subsidies dwarf climate financing

Jeremy Hance
December 05, 2012

Coal-powered Castle Gate Power Plant in Ohio. Photo by: David Jolley.
Coal-powered Castle Gate Power Plant in Ohio. Photo by: David Jolley.

A new analysis finds that 21 wealthy countries spent five-times more on subsidizing fossil fuels in 2011 than they have on providing funds for poor nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The analysis, by Oil Change International, comes in the midst of the current UN Climate Summit held in Doha, Qatar; progress at the talks has been stymied due to the gulf between poor and rich nations, including on the issue of climate financing.

"What this analysis shows is that governments gathered in Doha to supposedly fight climate change need to put their money where their mouths are," said Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. "It should be plainly obvious that you can't solve a problem when you’re spending vastly more to continue creating it than you are to fix it."

According to the analysis 21 wealthy countries—including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, and the UK—spent $58.7 billion on subsidizing fossil fuels, while they pledged $11.2 billion in "fast start" funding for poor countries to combat climate change. Rich nations have pledged to boost such funding to $100 billion a year by 2020, but have not outlined how they would pay for it—another contention at Doha this week.

The country with the highest financial support for fossil fuel subsidies was the U.S., which spent $13.1 billion on them in 2011, according to the analysis. In contrast, it put only $2.5 billion in the climate funds. The U.S. is the world's largest historical contributor to global climate change, and remains the second largest emitter today after China.

Of the 21 countries analyzed by Oil Change International, only Japan's climate financing was significantly higher than its fossil fuel subsidies.

The need to cut fossil fuel subsidies was agreed on by G-20 countries in 2009, but since then fossil fuel subsidies have actually increased, not fallen.

Yesterday, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN, told governments at Doha that, "No one is immune to climate change—rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race—our way of life, our plans for the future. We must take ownership. We, collectively, are the problem. Then we should have the solutions."

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (December 05, 2012).

Wealthy nations' fossil fuel subsidies dwarf climate financing .