Despite pledges to cut fossil fuel subsidies, it turns out that G20 country governments, which includes some of the largest economies in the world, are still providing $452 billion (£297 billion) a year in subsidies for the production of oil, gas, and coal. Among this, it turns out that while the current U.K. government has made numerous promises to be the “greenest government ever,” it has actually cut subsidies for the renewable energy sector. On top of that, it has increased its support of coal, oil, and gas.
The report, published by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, details how in 2013 and 2014, the U.K. government provided just under $9 billion (£6 billion) in subsidies per year to fossil fuel companies operating within the country, most of which are foreign-owned. The majority of this was in the form of tax breaks to boost the declining North Sea oil production. In addition to this, it provided $5.6 billion (£3.7 billion) in subsidies to support fossil fuel production overseas. In contrast, renewable energy companies received just $5.3 billion (£3.5 billion) over the same period.
How the G20 countries are pushing us closer to disaster. Overseas Development Institute/YouTube
And it doesn’t end there. The conservative U.K. government has already announced earlier this year that it will increase this subsidy for fossil fuels by a further $2.6 billion (£1.7 billion) by 2020. This makes the U.K. the only G7 country that has increased its support of the industry. At the same time, while the subsidies for oil are increasing, it has also been announced that the subsidies for renewables will be cut, ending those given for new onshore wind farms and slashing those for solar.
In 2014, the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron even told a UN climate change conference that: “We need to give business the certainty it needs to invest in low carbon. That means fighting against the economically and environmentally perverse fossil‑fuel subsidies.” This new report is especially embarrassing for the British government in the lead up to the crunch climate talks in Paris at the end of this month.
The report, called “Empty Promises,” also details the financial support given by the other G20 countries to the fossil fuel industry. The total subsidies were found to be almost four times what the entire world provides in subsides to renewables, which comes in at about $121 billion (£79.5 billion). This comes on the heels of recent news about how global average temperatures are set to breech 1°C of warming since pre-industrial levels, despite the announcement that nearly half of all new power plants built in 2014 were for renewable energy.