Fossil fuel follies

Fossil fuel follies

If the world is to avoid climate catastrophe, it will have to forego burning almost 90 per cent of proven coal reserves, plus one-third of oil and half of natural-gas reserves. But instead of implementing policies aimed at realizing that objective, governments continue not only to subsidize the fossil-fuel industry, but also to use scarce public resources to find new reserves. That has to change – and fast.

In an effort to help spur that change, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Friends of the Earth International have aggregated key data about the coal industry in the just-released Coal Atlas. The figures are striking.

According to the International Monetary Fund, post-tax subsidies for coal (including environmental damage) reached 3.9 per cent of global GDP this year. G-20 governments are estimated to spend US$88 billion per year on exploration subsidies for new fossil fuels.

And a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature revealed that from 2007 to 2014, governments channeled more than US$73 billion – or over US$9 billion per year – of public money toward coal projects. Leading the way were Japan ($20 billion), China (around $15 billion), South Korea ($7 billion), and Germany ($6.8 billion).

This public investment augments already-substantial commercial funding for the coal sector. In 2013, 92 leading banks provided at least €66 billion (US$71 billion) – over four times as much as in 2005. All of this has gone to buttress an industry that produces a massive share of global emissions – and seems dead set on continuing to do so.

Since 1988, just 35 coal producers, both private and state-owned, have contributed one-third of total CO2 emissions. The damage their products are causing is no secret.

And yet coal and other fossil-fuel companies have refused to adjust their business models. Instead, they have actively worked to block efforts to mitigate climate change at the national and international levels, including by funding climate-change deniers and lobbying against renewable-energy targets and successful instruments like feed-in tariffs.

Meanwhile, the coal industry argues that it plays an indispensable role in tackling “energy poverty” – that is, the lack of access to modern non-polluting forms of power, primarily electricity.


Source: Eco Business

Date: December 2015

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