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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Rich nations spend $100bn a year on fossil fuels despite climate pledges

G7 countries continue to subsidise oil, gas and coal after promising to phase out support,

President Donald Trump is weighing up whether to provide subsidies to support the West Virginia coal industry. Robert Galbraith/Reuters
President Donald Trump is weighing up whether to provide subsidies to support the West Virginia coal industry. Robert Galbraith/Reuters

The world’s major industrial democracies spend at least $100 billion (Dh367bn) each year to prop up oil, gas and coal consumption, despite vows to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, a report published on Monday said.

The report comes days ahead of the Group of Seven summit in Quebec, Canada on June 8 and 9.

Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – known as the G7 – pledged in 2016 to phase out their support for fossil fuels by 2025.

But a study led by Britain’s Overseas Development Institute found they spent at least $100bn a year to support fossil fuels at home and abroad in 2015 and 2016.

“Governments often say they have no public resources to support the clean energy transition,” the study’s lead author Shelagh Whitley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“What we’re trying to do is highlight that those resources are there but they are being used inefficiently.

“The G7 have pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies but they don’t have any systems in terms of accountability to meet the pledges – they don’t have road maps or plans,” said Ms Whitley, head of the ODI’s climate division.

Researchers scrutinised and scored each country against indicators such as transparency, pledges and commitments, as well as their progress towards ending the use, support and production of fossil fuels.

France was ranked the highest overall, scoring 63 out of 100 points, followed by Germany (62), Canada (54) and the UK (47), the report said.

The United States scored lowest with 42 out of 100 points due to its support for fossil fuel production and its withdrawal from a 2015 global pact to fight climate change.

President Donald Trump announced a year ago he was ditching the deal agreed by nearly 200 countries over opposition from businesses.

The 2015 Paris agreement committed nations to curbing greenhouse emissions and keeping the global increase in temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

Britain scored the lowest on transparency for denying that its government provided fossil fuel subsidies, even though it supported tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas exploration, the report said.

“We do not subsidise the production or consumption of fossil fuels,” a spokesman from Britain’s treasury said in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are supporting other countries in phasing out their own fossil fuel subsidies as part of our commitment to the G20 and G7 pledges,” he said.

The study, which was co-written by Oil Change International, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Natural Resources Defence Council, urged G7 governments to set concrete plans to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 as pledged.

“What should be a low-hanging fruit in terms of moving public resources away from fossil fuels is not happening, or where it is happening, it’s not happening fast enough,” said the Ms Whitley.

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