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Canada, UK, France, Ireland Declared Climate Emergency While Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

A new analysis this week identifies Canada as one of four countries that have declared climate emergencies after collectively spending US$27.5 billion per year on fossil fuel subsidies earlier this decade.

The Overseas Development Institute calculates Canada’s average fossil subsidies at $7.73 billion per year for 2015-2016, Climate Home News reports, noting that more recently “the government of Justin Trudeau has been accused of sending out mixed signals after approving a pipeline expansion on the day after declaring a national climate emergency.”

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Climate Home identifies the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland as the other countries with recent climate emergency declarations and longer histories of lavish fossil subsidies. Average spending for 2015 and 2016 hit $11 billion in the UK and $8.02 billion in France.

The report found that G20 countries have nearly tripled their coal subsidies in recent years, The Guardian reports, despite their promise a decade ago to phase out all “inefficient” fossil subsidies.

“Since then many have played an important part in driving forward climate action internationally,” ODI and several partner organizations state. “However, a decade on from this commitment, G20 governments continue to provide billions of dollars of support for the production and consumption of fossil fuels, spending at least $63.9 billion per year on coal alone, the most polluting fossil fuel. They have also neglected to define or document the full extent of their subsidies.”

“It has now been 10 years since the G20 committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, yet astonishingly, some governments are actually increasing the amount they give to coal power plants,” said lead author and ODI research fellow Ipek Gençsü. “Momentum is growing around the world for governments to take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis, and ending subsidies to coal would bring benefits to all [including reduced air pollution] and help set a level playing field for clean energy.”

Japan, the country that is about to host this year’s G20 summit, emerges as one of the world’s biggest financial supporters for coal, The Guardian notes, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s declaration in September that “climate change can be life-threatening to all generations…We must take more robust actions and reduce the use of fossil fuels.”

Overall, “China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, and the U.S.,” The Guardian states. “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.”