Skip to main content

Ghosts of resolutions past

Oilfield Technology,

According to the Brookings Institution, 2015 will be make or break in climate change negotiations. A new year brings new, hopeful resolutions. Some resolutions fade, but failure is less forgivable when the repercussions include the increased exploration of fossil fuels at the expense of a warming world. To avoid the most destructive effects of climate change, we must keep two thirds of existing fossil fuel reserves underground, instead of providing subsidies to dig them up, Brookings holds.

One group not living up to its resolutions: the G20 members – 19 countries and the EU that make up 85% of global GDP. At the 2009 G20 summit in Pittsburg, the group agreed to ‘rationalise and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption’. At the 2013 summit St. Petersburg, they reaffirmed this resolution. Yet that same year, these countries funneled US$ 88 billion into exploring new reserves of oil, gas, and coal. Another resolution abandoned.

This year’s G20 summit will convene in Brisbane, Australia (15 – 16 November) – a perfect opportunity to commiserate about the backsliding on the agreement and to develop a new approach that includes some means of holding each other accountable, according to Brookings. So how can the G20 follow through on its laudable and necessary pledge?

1. Get help from the experts.

A new report by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International criticizes the G20 for ‘marry[ing] bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change’. It points out that every dollar used to subsidise renewables generates twice as much investment as the dollar that subsidises fossil fuels.

2. Set a timeline and stick to it.

National timelines for fossil fuel subsidy phase out would be different depending on the governmental structures and budgeting processes of individual countries. Also, countries can utilize the timeline of the incoming international climate treaty, by including a subsidy phase out as part of a mitigation plan to be measured and reported.

3. It’s easier with friends.

The G20 got it right that no one country should have to go it alone. Now it is time to strengthen its methodology for peer review of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, and agree upon a transparent and consistent system for tracking and reporting.

That said, it can also be easier to cheat with friends. The new report tracks where investments from G20 state owned energy companies are directed. As it turns out, G20 countries continue to fund each other’s fossil fuel exploration. Instead of cheating together on their own resolution, G20 members should leverage these relationships to advance investments in clean energy.

4. Hold each other accountable.

The G20 is not the only group that has committed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. The issue has received support from advocacy groups, religious leaders and business constituencies alike. The public will be able to better hold leaders accountable if the G20 declares its commitment and progress loud and proud.

Moreover, G20 members and advocacy organizations can make the facts very clear: fossil fuel subsidies do not support the world’s poor, and the public ends up paying for the externalities they cause in pollution and public health. This accountability to addressing concerns of the people can help the G20 stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

5. If at first you don’t succeed…

Brookings acknowledges that phasing out fossil fuel subsidies will not be easy. There is no G20 standard definition of ‘inefficient subsidies’ or timeline for the phase out. It also hasn’t helped that countries report their own data. They can even opt out of this unenforced commitment altogether. Yet the pledge is there, as is the urgency of the issue. New Year’s resolution take more than just commitments, they take work. Brookings highlights that this week’s G20 Leaders Summit is an excellent place to commit to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Again.

Adapted from a report by Emma McAleavey.

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):