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G20 Struggles with Fossil Fuel Subsidy Issue Despite Renewable Energy Commitments

Despite the G20's commitment to increase renewable energy capacity, there is a lack of corresponding pledges to phase out fossil fuels. This article delves into this contradiction and emphasizes the urgency for actionable plans to remove fossil fuel subsidies.

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Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver is a renowned writer, celebrated for his vibrant storytelling and intricate world-building. Beyond being an writer, he's an artist, dedicated to crafting stories that captivate, transform, and linger.
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Shouldn’t committing to renewable energy also imply a parallel pledge to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels? Unfortunately, the G20 meeting held in New Delhi last weekend didn’t bring about this crucial commitment.

Although nations agreed to triple their renewable energy capabilities by 2030, there was little mention of eliminating fossil fuels. Instead, buried in the leaders’ statement was an age-old promise to “phase out and rationalize, over the medium term, inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.”

Backtracking Instead of Progressing

This promise is hardly novel or ambitious; it’s been on the G20 agenda since 2009. Surprisingly, instead of phasing out these fossil fuel subsidies, a few nations still provide immense financial support. The U.S., despite being one of the most vocal advocates for climate change, unfortunately, bags the title of one of the biggest supporters of this practice. Comparatively wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia also follow suit, subsidizing fossil fuels more than their economies can afford.

Recent data from the International Monetary Fund reveals a worrying trend – global fossil fuel subsidies almost doubled between 2021 and 2022.

The ‘Why’ Behind the Continued Support

This unexpected rise can be attributed mainly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent shockwaves through the global energy system. However, this episode entails larger implications about why nations continue to subsidize oil and gas extractors. Countries feel compelled to ensure an uninterrupted supply, fearing that dependency on foreign sources may backfire. Furthermore, leaders believe cheap energy is a formula for political stability. Scrapping subsidies that impact average citizens could spark demonstrations, as happened in Angola.

The Need for Action is Now From G20

One can argue that these predicaments shouldn’t be a justification for non-action. The New Delhi statement stated that leaders would “increase our efforts to implement the commitment [on subsidies] made in 2009.” However, no specifics on what these efforts might involve were provided. It seems that challenging decisions like discontinuing subsidies can always be postponed until the next year or even the next election cycle. This delaying tactic has served leaders well over the past 14 years, but it’s the average citizen and the environment that have to bear the brunt.

As the debate on transitioning to sustainable energy widens, wealthy nations, in particular, need to consider the contradiction of supporting renewable energy on the one hand and heavily subsidizing fossil fuels on the other. The commitment to a greener future isn’t just about augmenting renewable energy resources but also about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. It’s critical to reimagine energy in all its dimensions, from economic to political to environmental perspectives. Instead of delaying action, leaders need to confront the challenge and formulate actionable plans to phase out fossil fuel subsidies gradually.

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