G20 Looks to Weaken Fossil Fuel Subsidy Agreement


At a largely disappointing G20 summit last September, one of the few bright spots was the agreement that member nations would phase out fossil fuel subsidies. But as G20 prepares to meet this week in Toronto, it looks like that commitment will be substantially watered down.

Leaked draft language (PDF) obtained by ClimateWire indicates that leaders may weaken the language on fossil fuels, suggesting that commitments will be “voluntary” and “member specific”:

We reviewed progress made to date in identifying inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and we agree to continue working to develop voluntary, member-specific approaches for the rationalization and phase out of such measures.

“This is quite worrisome,” said Steve Kretzman, head of Oil Change International, a group advocating for the subsidy cuts. “This amounts to saying they may phase out fossil fuel subsidies if they feel like it.”

It’s not yet known which G20 member(s) are responsible for the less-ambitious language. It might not be the US this time, despite America’s reputation when it comes to international agreements. Obama’s 2011 budget called for the elimination of 12 tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies, which is expected to raise $39 billion in the next 10 years. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and several other senators have drafted a bill that would follow through on that, which looks likely to be included in the Senate’s energy, oil spill, and (possibly) climate legislation next month.

The G20 meeting starts Sunday in Toronto.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.