Despite repeated pledges to end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the support of G20 governments for fossil fuels and fossil fuel-intensive sectors has reached $243 billion through COVID-19 economic recovery programs, a new report showed Tuesday.
According to the study entitled Doubling Back and Doubling Down: G20 Scorecard on Fossil Fuel Funding by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Oil Change International (OCI), G20 funding for fossil fuels dropped to $584 billion between 2017 and 2019, marking a 9% decrease compared to the 2014-2016 period.
Study researchers found this marginal progress would likely be undone this year by billions of dollars committed to fossil fuels in response to COVID-19.
"G20 governments were already not on track to meet their Paris Agreement commitments on ending public support for fossil fuels before COVID-19," Anna Geddes, an associate at IISD and the lead author of the report said in a statement.
She said these governments are disappointingly moving in the opposite direction.
"G20 funds for fossil fuels are likely on course to remain constant or even trend upwards again this year compared to the last few years where we have seen a slight drop in support," she noted.
The report analyzed the performance of G20 countries using seven indicators, including transparency, pledges, public money for coal, oil and gas, fossil fuel-based power - both production and consumption, as well as how support has changed over time.
According to the study, in most countries assessed, the progress made during the last three years was described as "poor" or "very poor" and no country was considered to have made "good progress" in reaching the Paris Agreement goals.
Among the G20 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members, Germany performed best overall in terms of phasing out fossil fuel funding, while Mexico, Turkey, and the United Kingdom ranked equally lowest. Top scorer Germany got points for transparency, strong commitments, and relatively lower support for oil and gas production and fossil fuel use.
The United Kingdom and Turkey rank poorly due to a lack of transparency and large subsidies for fossil fuel use, while Mexico was docked for heavy support for oil and gas production and fossil fuel-based power.
Out of the non-OECD G20 countries, Brazil scored highest under the seven indicators, while Saudi Arabia came in last, the report said.
"China, Japan and South Korea's recently announced net-zero emissions plans and the EU's Green Deal initiative indicate that there is momentum to increase ambition and demonstrate a commitment to climate action," Geddes said, adding that although the last three years have shown a lack of progress from governments, the next three years can be a turning point."
Angela Picciariello, senior research officer at ODI said that no G20 country is performing as it should, but suggested that they rule out any continued fossil fuel support in recovery spending to be in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C target and to avoid the worst of the climate crisis.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya