G20 countries criticised for supporting fossil fuels during Covid-19

11 Nov 20

The world’s major economies have been “moving in the opposite direction” from their climate commitments by continuing to fund fossil fuels during the pandemic, researchers have said.


A report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International found that despite G20 countries’ pledges to end subsidies for coal, oil and gas, support for the sector over the past three years dropped by only 9%.

In the 2017-19 period, these subsidies totaled $584bn a year, and the report suggested that the small progress that has been made would likely be undone by the countries’ responses to Covid-19, including billions committed to fossil fuels.

“G20 governments were already not on track to meet their Paris Agreement commitments on ending public support for fossil fuels before Covid-19,” said the IISD’s Anna Geddes, lead author of the report.

“Now, disappointingly, they are moving in the opposite direction. G20 funds for fossil fuels are likely on course to remain constant or even trend upwards again in 2020 compared with the last few years.”

The report used data from Energy Policy Tracker, a research project that collects data on government support for fossil fuels.

According to that data, G20 governments have so far given at least $233bn in additional support to fossil fuel-intensive sectors since the beginning of the pandemic.

The report ranked each of the G20 countries’ performance on the issue, taking into account transparency, the amount of public money supporting coal, oil and gas, consumption and production of fossil fuels – and whether progress was being made in cutting those numbers.

Germany performed best overall, owing to its high transparency and relatively lower support for oil and gas production, while Mexico, Turkey and the UK ranked joint lowest.

“No G20 country is performing as it should, but there are some examples that could be followed,” said Angela Picciariello of the ODI.

“To be in line with [limiting global warming to] 1.5ºC and avoid the worst of the climate crisis, G20 governments should rule out any continued fossil fuel support, in recovery spending or otherwise.”

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