One of the greatest contradictions of our time is that while world leaders profess concern over a rapidly warming planet, they continue to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing the fossil fuel industries that are driving climate change.
In fact, according to a new report released on Monday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—a global forum on economic policy—the world’s richest nations spend roughly $160-200 billion each year supporting fossil fuel consumption and production.
“We’re totally schizophrenic,” said Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the Paris-based organization. “We’re trying to reduce emissions, and we subsidize the consumption of fossil fuels. These policies are not obsolete, they’re dangerous legacies of a bygone era when pollution was viewed as a tolerable side effect of economic growth. They should be erased from the books.”
Further, Gurría pointed out that governments “are spending almost twice as much money supporting fossil fuels as is needed to meet the climate-finance objectives set by the international community, which call for mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020.”
The OECD Inventory identified 800 separate spending programs and tax breaks used by the governments of its 34 member countries, plus six key emerging economies—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa—that encourage oil, gas, and coal development.
“The measures counted by the OECD covered some of the most obscure pieces of national tax codes—including direct controls on gasoline prices, depreciation allowances for oil drillers, breaks for refiners, credits for infrastructure like pipelines and stimulus for technology to clean up coal emissions,” Bloomberg reports.
Such subsidies, the report notes, distort costs and prices, “create inefficiencies in the way we generate and use energy,” are costly for governments, and—most importantly—”undermine efforts to make our economies less carbon-intensive while exacerbating the damage to human health caused by air pollution.”
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