G20 Nations Continue to Fund Coal, Despite Commitments Pledging the Opposite

G20 countries have a critical role to play in leading efforts to combat climate change, as they account for 79% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite pledging a decade ago to phase out subsidies for oil and other heavy CO2-emitting fuels in the “medium term,” G20 nations have almost tripled the subsidies they give to coal-fired power plants in recent years.

What’s the Deal?: According to the World Economic Forum, between 2014 and 2017, G20 governments more than halved direct support for coal mining, from $22 billion to about $10 billion on average each year.

HOWEVERover the same period, they boosted backing for coal-fired power plants – particularly supporting the construction of the plants in other, often poorer nations – from $17 billion to $47 billion a year.

The Culprits: As the Guardian reported,

  • China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, and the US.
  • While the UK frequently runs its own electricity grid without any coal power at all, a parliamentary report in June criticized the billions of pounds used to help to build fossil fuel power plants overseas.

It Could Be Even Worse: Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a co-author of the report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) that revealed this information explained that “In reality, government support to coal is much larger than our report’s numbers show, because many G20 countries still lack transparency on the many ways they subsidize coal.

Why This Matters: Developing nations may take the commitments of governments who categorize climate change as a dire threat yet continue to fund coal as a sign that global commitments to tackle the climate crisis aren’t serious. As these nations develop and plan their future energy resources they might not be inclined to make investments in low-carbon resources if bigger countries aren’t walking the walk on climate change action. Scientists have told us that we have roughly a decade to curb global emissions and avoid the worst ramifications of climate change, yet global emissions are still rising. This means that G20 must step up and make tangible commitments that get us to where we need to be, not just lip service about getting tough on climate change.

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