To prevent potentially catastrophic climate change, the world’s largest economies agreed to phase out their subsidies for carbon-emitting fossil fuels in 2009.
That anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions are influencing the global climate is now almost without dispute. The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes with 95 percent certainty that the burning of fossil fuels is primarily to blame. In a brief interview with Planet Experts, Penn State University’s Professor of Meteorology and author of The Hockey Stick Graph, Dr. Michael Mann, noted that anthropogenic climate change is already having “negative impacts” on “food, water, human health, national security, ecosystems, and our economy.”
As the body of evidence supporting emissions-induced climate change grows, so too does the urgency to cap and reduce fossil fuel production and use. The phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies agreed-upon by the G20 was supposed to acknowledge this fact. As U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2009, “This reform will increase our energy security…and it will help us combat the threat posed by climate change.
“All nations have a responsibility to meet this challenge, and together we have taken a substantial step forward in meeting that responsibility.”
A new report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI) claims that the G20 has done anything but.
Not only are world governments spending $775 billion to subsidize the use and production of fossil fuels, they are also paying $88 billion per year to subsidize the exploration for further fossil fuel deposits.
Global renewable subsidies, by comparison, amounted to $101 billion in 2013.
Instead of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, countries have poured more money into them. In the United States, oil and gas reserves have increased by 35 percent since 2008, and public and private expenditures on exploration for oil and natural gas increased by 63 percent (to $38.3 billion) between 2008 and 2012.
Today, the U.S. spends $5.1 billion on fossil fuel exploration, “almost twice as much as in 2009,” according to ODI.
If not halted, this reckless spending in the pursuit of more carbon-pumping fossil fuels will send the next century’s average temperatures well over the 2ºC threshold that will invite the worst impacts of climate change.
ODI states that the G20 are currently building a “triple-lose” scenario: They are financing high-carbon assets “that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects,” they’re diverting investment away from low-carbon alternatives, and they’re undermining the hope for a significant, unified climate action plan at the 2015 Paris climate change convention.