Rome – The major G20 economies are “moving in the wrong direction” in response to the coronavirus pandemic by using stimulus spending to support industries and companies that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels heating the planet, researchers said on Tuesday.
Despite repeated promises to end subsidies for oil, gas and coal, the G20 government continues to fund fossil fuels, with the COVID-19 crisis not changing that much, says a new report.
That points to regularly updated figures from the Energy Policy Tracker, a non-profit research project. Recent data shows that the G20 countries have committed more than $ 230 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds for gross energy so far.
In comparison, they plan to devote less than $ 150 billion to clean energy.
The report, from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Institute for Overseas Development and advocacy group Oil Change International, said the G20 recovery spending is likely to “invalidate the small progress made between 2014 and 2019.”
Angela Picciariello, a senior research officer at ODI, said the implications were “very worrying and disappointing.”
“The current direction of travel is not encouraging and needs to be reversed as soon as possible” if the world is to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, he said by email.
“To be in line with 1.5 C and avoid the worst of the climate crisis, the G20 governments must rule out sustainable fossil fuel support, in recovery spending or otherwise,” he added.
The report calls for public money earmarked for fossil fuels to help economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis so that green conditions stick. This urges the government to support more sustainable areas such as health, social support and clean energy.
The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change. Limiting these emissions is critical for controlling rising global temperatures and preventing weather disasters, say scientists.
However, more than 10 years after G20 leaders agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies – which keep fuel prices low, increase demand and cause more emissions – progress has been “very limited and certainly not sufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” “Said Picciariello.
“There is no G20 country that appears properly. Most of the countries we assess have shown minimal progress over the past three years, “he added.
Between 2017 and 2019, the G20 governments supported fossil fuels up to $ 584 billion per year, 9% less than in the 2014-2016 period, according to the report.
Seven countries – Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Russia and South Africa – have stepped up their fossil fuel support over the years, he said.
The report ranks the G20 countries on seven indicators including transparency, public money for coal, oil and gas, fossil fuel-based power, and how support has changed over time.
Germany scored the cleanest among the G20 countries which are also part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of wealthy countries.
Brazil scored the highest for the G20 countries outside of the OECD, but new steps such as an upcoming natural gas bill that would establish tax exemptions and low interest rates for investment in gas facilities and pipelines could change that, warned Bronwen Tucker, an analyst at Oil Change International.
Britain, Turkey and Mexico are in the lowest rankings among the G20 OECD members and Saudi Arabia is last among non-OECD countries.
The report criticizes Britain for lacking transparency and says it denies providing fossil fuel subsidies “by its own narrow definition,” while still delivering $ 16.4 billion in government support on fossil fuels each year.
The support comes from previous tax revenues of $ 12.7 billion, direct budget transfers and public finances, he said.
The UK government’s definition of subsidies follows the International Energy Agency’s definition, which excludes such measures, Picciariello said.
The UK’s Department of Business, Energy & Industry Strategy did not respond to a request for comment.
Separately, on Tuesday, ministers from countries that are part of the climate alliance known as the High Ambition Coalition called for “the largest possible percentage” of recovery spending to be dedicated to green economies and low-carbon jobs.
The nine governments backing claims on a resilient recovery said they would aim to make up at least 60% of climate-friendly pandemic stimulus spending, and eliminate and avoid fossil fuel subsidies in favor of “zero carbon” alternatives.
The signatories so far are the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Luxembourg, Fiji, Grenada, Belize and Bhutan.