It’s not just Trump: G20 commits to climate disaster

Greenpeace call for climate action outside the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 10.
July 15, 2017

World leaders broke with the United States on climate change and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement at the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, which brings together representatives from some of the world’s largest economies. 

However, a new report has exposed the strong support for large fossil fuel corporations from G20 governments as a whole.  

The final joint statement from the G20 summit took the unusual step of acknowledging the US rejection of the Paris deal while reiterating the rest of the world’s support for the landmark climate agreement, Democracy Now! said.

Democracy Now! reported on July 10 that Greenpeace activists outside the G20 summit had called on world leaders to raise their level of ambition beyond the Paris climate accord. Sixty-five activists from several European countries scaled the Kohlbrand Bridge in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8 and displayed a giant banner that read: “End Coal.”

An alliance of environmental groups have released a new report, Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster, showing G20 governments provide an average of US$72 billion a year in public finance for fossil fuels — nearly four times as much as they provide for clean energy.

It came as The Guardian said on July 10 that the Carbon Majors Report had found that just 100 fossil fuel companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

Alex Doukas, from Oil Change International, is the lead author of Talk is Cheap. Speaking to Democracy Now!, he said: “$72 billion, on average, per year is flowing from G20 governments through their public finance institutions to support the production of oil, gas and coal.

“And that’s on top of subsidies that they provide domestically to their domestic oil, gas and coal companies. So, for example, in the United States, all of the industry-specific tax breaks that ExxonMobil and Chevron and other oil corporations benefit from. So, on the whole, we’re talking about a huge amount of government support for fossil fuel production.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘We’re not Trump when it comes to climate change’. It’s not enough to simply confront his climate denial ... They need to be putting their money where their mouths are.

“There’s still actually public finance for coal-fired power plants. Most of the finance that we looked at in the report is international finance. For example, money coming from US or Japanese or Chinese public finance institutions supporting coal-fired power plants around the world.

“We’ve also looked at oil and gas finance and found that it’s nearly half of all public finance for energy provided by G20 governments. So it dwarfs all other sources of energy in terms of the public support, especially into things like liquefied natural gas.

“And the G20 leaders, even in their climate and energy action plan, with Trump, agreed that they called natural gas a clean fuel, which it certainly is not.”

Doukas emphasised that this allocation of public funds for fossil fuels was not consistent with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

He described the situation as “a crisis of immense proportions, and we can’t just be talking about taking climate action anymore. We have to be taking climate action.

“So, even Germany’s government, the host of the G20 this year, with Chancellor Merkel at the helm, has been providing more public finance to fossil fuels than to clean energy. Same with Canada. So, these are countries where ... they have lofty rhetoric about climate change, yet their public finance is still going into fossil fuels.”

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