Could COP21 bring fossil fuels subsidies down? Globally, fossil fuel subsidies rig the game and the transition to a clean energy future. With the draft agreement emerging from days of negotiations at COP21, the status-quo might just change.
Nearly 200 world leaders are gathered in Paris for the landmark COP21. Reducing emissions stemming from fossil fuels ranks high on the priority list as global warming is becoming an increasingly immediate threat. How could the world achieve emissions reduction in a timely and cost efficient manner?
As is almost always the case, it seems the argument trickles down to finance. Stop fossil fuel subsidies and use the money in other clean energy sectors. Yet, could COP21 bring fossil fuels subsidies down?
In 2009 the G20 meeting resulted in industrialized nations agreeing to a phase out system for fossil fuels subsidies. Admittedly, some progress has been registered. The strongest argument comes from an International Energy Agency report highlighting how the estimate 490 billion dollars in fossil fuels subsidies worldwide just in 2014 could have well been 610 billion dollars had it not been for the 2009 G20 agreement.
It’s not sufficient though as the urgency of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels is reaching a red point. According to the International Energy Agency, one of the most effective strategies to cut emissions from fossil fuels is to end subsidies. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency stated relative to fossil fuels subsidies:
“they are public enemy No. 1 in terms of sustainable development”.
Oil Change International is an advocacy group focused on energy research. In the latest report, it is also stated that fossil fuels subsidies are:
“allowing fossil fuel producers to undermine national climate commitments, while paying them for the privilege”.
Other groups are mirroring the same opinion. And on Monday, the opening day of COP21, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC stated in front of government representatives, organizations and hundreds of business representative that:
“The huge sums involved globally could be better spent on schools, health care, renewable energies and building resilient societies”.
Mrs. Figueres’ comment could be understood as a little guidance in a world where fossil fuels subsidies range from 490 billion dollars per year according to International Energy Agency estimates to 5.3 trillion dollars as per the International Monetary Fund estimates.
The latter also includes the costs that dirty energy use infers on people’s health, the climate and the environment. Could COP21 bring fossil fuels subsidies down? It all depends on political will to measure up to a powerful industry as well as the political will to understand that renewable energies are the future and ending fossil fuels subsidies is the low-hanging fruit of climate change solutions.
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