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Subsidies for the fossil fuel industry should be eliminated as they help to “destroy the world” the United Nation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told media this week, adding pollution should be taxed, as quoted by Reuters.
"Many people still think that to give fossil fuel subsidies is a way to improve living conditions of people," Guterres said at a climate change conference in Austria. "There is nothing more wrong than that. What we are doing is using taxpayers' money – which means our money – to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals. In one word – to destroy the world."
Global fossil fuel consumption subsidies, including for electricity generation, exceeded US$300 billion in 2017, according to data from the International Energy Agency released in its 2018 World Energy Outlook.
Of this, Iran accounted for the biggest portion, at US$45 billion, followed by China, with subsidies of about US$38 billion, and Saudi Arabia, which poured around US$35 billion in oil gas, and electricity subsidies in 2017, Russia came fourth, with about US$21 billion allocated for fossil fuel subsidies.
Meanwhile, the pressure to curb the worst effects of climate change on the environment is intensifying. Earlier this month a fresh report warned that up to a million animal and plant species faced extinction as a result of human activity. The report, however, blamed industrial farming and fishing for the crisis rather than singularly focusing on the energy industry as many others have. Yet, it said that fossil fuel use made matters worse.
In response to this report, the UN’s Secretary-General called for "a rapid and deep change in how we do business, how we generate power, how we build cities, and how we feed the world". This is by far not the first—nor will it be the last—call for a complete makeover of human civilization. The thing about complete makeovers is they don’t happen overnight however much you want them to. That’s why now some have estimated that even if all governments that ratified the Paris Agreement do what they pledged to do, temperatures will still rise by an average 3 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.