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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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World Bank Calls For Fossil Fuel Subsidies To Be Redirected

  • In a new report, the World Bank says that trillions of dollars are wasted on subsidies for fossil fuels, agriculture, and fisheries that could be used to address climate change.
  • The World Bank suggests $577 billion in government subsidies for fossil fuels could be redirected for more productive and sustainable solutions.
  • According to the report, countries spend about six times what they pledged to spend on renewable energies and low-carbon development on fossil fuel subsidies.
World Bank

Redirecting the $577 billion in government subsidies for fossil fuels could unlock at least half a trillion dollars that could be put to more sustainable uses, the World Bank said in a new report.

The bank is calling for trillions of U.S. dollars stop being wasted on subsidies for agriculture, fisheries, and fossil fuels and be used to help address climate change instead of harming people and the planet.   

The World Bank’s report, Detox Development: Repurposing Environmentally Harmful Subsidies, found that direct government subsidies for agriculture, fishing, and fossil fuels combined are around $1.25 trillion a year—around the size of a big economy such as Mexico.  

Direct, or explicit subsidies, combined with implicit subsidies for fossil fuels, agriculture, and fisheries, exceed $7 trillion annually, which is around 8% of global gross domestic product (GDP), according to the report.

Implicit subsidies – a measure of the subsidies’ impact on people and the planet - amount to over $6 trillion a year and the burden fall mostly on the poor.

“To subsidize fossil fuel consumption, countries spend about six times what they pledged to mobilize annually under the Paris Agreement for renewable energies and low-carbon development,” the World Bank said.

The World Bank’s report says that government subsidies of $577 billion handed in 2021 to artificially lower the price of oil, gas, and coal, exacerbate climate change, and cause toxic air pollution, inequality, inefficiency, and mounting debt burdens.

“Redirecting these subsidies could unlock at least half a trillion dollars towards more productive and sustainable uses,” the bank says.

Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director of the World Bank, commented, “People say that there isn’t money for climate but there is – it’s just in the wrong places.”

“If we could repurpose the trillions of dollars being spent on wasteful subsidies and put these to better, greener uses, we could together address many of the planet’s most pressing challenges.”

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on June 16 2023 said:
    World Bank officials have the luxury of pontificating on subsidies from their air-conditioned ivory towers in a most elegant area of Washington DC only few hundred metres away from the White House. In such a comfortable environment, they may or may not be aware that subsidies on agriculture and fisheries could mean the difference between food for hundreds of millions of people around the globe and starvation and ultimate death.

    The bank says that redirecting the $577 bn in government subsidies for fossil fuels could unlock at least half a trillion dollars that could be put to more sustainable uses. But governments depend greatly on fuel taxes to support their budgets. Because they impose high fuel taxes, they feel obliged to use a small part of the tax to subsidize fuel prices otherwise they would have civil unrest on their hands.

    Moreover, trillions of dollars have been spent over the last decade on sustainable renewable energy. What do they have to show for them? Fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) still account for 84.9% of global primary energy consumption almost as they did twenty years ago while renewables’ share has managed to rise by just over 1% to 5.7% from just over 4%. Hundreds of starving people around the world don’t give a toss about climate change. Their worry about where the next meal would be coming. They want to avoid death right now from starvation not in hundred years' time from climate change.

    In September 2011, I made a proposal for the World Bank Innovative Fund 2021 about cheap solar-powered water desalination plants to be used in poor countries of the world. I called on the World Bank to take the lead in orchestrating the provision of funds from its members and channeling them for research to generate the enabling technology for cheap state-of-the-art solar–powered water desalination. The cost of developing such technology would certainly be a fraction of the estimated $365 bn lost every year in food production around the world. As far as I know, no action has so far been taken by the bank.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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