Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Must Be One of the Major Outcomes of Rio+20
Posted June 14, 2012
What if I told you that governments around the world were spending almost $1 trillion dollars a year to subsidize activities that are driving global warming? What if I told you that the leaders of the major countries had committed to phase-out these fossil fuel subsidies in 2009 but they hadn’t really done much to follow through on that commitment? What if I told you that countries had a chance to send a clear signal right now that it is time to finally phase-out these destructive subsidies?` World leaders have a chance at Rio+20 to stop subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of nearly $1 trillion and make an important dent in reducing global warming. And now you have a chance to tell these world leaders that it is time to end fossil fuel subsidies. Join with NRDC, 350.org, Avaaz.org, and other leading groups in telling world leaders that it is time to #endfossilfuelsubsidies.
Here is why this is so critical and why important progress can be made at Rio+20.
Nearly $1 trillion reasons to change course. Countries are spending around $1 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels. This is 12 times more in subsidies than are being provided to renewable energy* (see figure). Given tight budget times and the need to address global warming, subsidizing activities that are heating the planet just doesn’t make sense. As Christine Lagarde the Head of the International Monetary Fund just said:
“Many countries continue to subsidize polluting energy systems. These subsidies are costly for the budget and costly for the planet. Countries should reduce them. But in doing so, they must protect vulnerable groups by tightly focusing subsidies on products used by poorer people, and by strengthening social safety nets.”
Countries must change course in Rio. Right now countries are meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to set the agenda for international action on several critical issues. And next week over 110 world leaders will arrive to (hopefully) make firm commitments on specific actions they’ll take to address global warming, spur more clean energy, and reduce deforestation. Wouldn’t it be nice if one of those commitments was to finally get out of the business of subsidizing our planetary destruction?
Fortunately, these world leaders have a chance to do just that at Rio. They can commit clearly and loudly to finally phase-out fossil fuel subsidies by 2015 at the latest, they can commit to report on those subsidies in transparent and credible fashion, and they can work with other countries to ensure that the poor aren’t harmed by this transition. This isn’t rocket science as environmental, faith, development, trade, indigenous peoples, youth, and health organizations recently signed a letter demanding exactly this kind of action out of leaders at Rio.
But some countries are standing in the way. Unfortunately some countries are blocking progress on this issue at Rio. Not surprisingly Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC are doing everything in their power to block efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. After all, they really don’t want the world addressing global warming and moving off the destructive use of fossil fuels. And other countries are joining into the mix to stop progress. Some are even proposing that we need to eliminate the important subsidies that are being provided to build a clean energy future, such as through wind and solar.
Luckily a few countries like the U.S., New Zealand, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and the E.U. are standing up. But will they stand strong and will President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil make sure that this issue doesn’t get dropped from the final Rio outcome document? Countries are meeting in the next couple of days to decide the fate of the commitment to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies at Rio. Rio must deliver on this issue.
The public strongly supports world leaders in committing to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies at Rio. Over 1 million citizens throughout the world have sent a clear signal that it is time for world leaders to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies, as our friends at 350.org and Avaaz.org have helped mobilize.
We need your help to send a clear signal that it is time to end fossil fuel subsidies. Join NRDC, 350.org, Avaaz.org, and many others in telling world leaders that it is time to end fossil fuel subsidies. Tweet or post on Facebook: #endfossilfuelsubsidies. Go to endfossilfuelsubsides.org to learn more about this issue and how you can add your voice to the citizens demanding action at the G20 and Rio on fossil fuel subsidies.
* The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that $66 billion in subsidies were provided to renewable energy in 2010. Note that the IEA estimate for fossil fuel subsidies only includes consumption subsidies in 37 countries so their value is lower.