What is the new green?
We, the One Young World Ambassadors, pledge to personally contribute to the One Young World Global Statement in order to create consensus on the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.
About this Pledge
Fossil fuel subsidies are fast becoming the globally most debated issue in the area of sustainable development, and within the international community. At least a whopping USD 775 billion is being provided as global fossil fuel subsidies in 2012.
One Young World finds it unacceptable for taxpayers’ money and government investments to be given to one of the most profitable and most environmentally destructive industry – the fossil fuel industry.
Almost exactly three years after G20’s historic commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies in Pittsburgh, young people representing the whole world are convening in the same city for the One Young World 2012 Summit. The One Young World delegates have chosen to call an end for fossil fuel subsidies, building on the momentum of the global civil society movement recently formed to end fossil fuel subsidies, and of the Rio+20 Summit. This will be done using the Global Statement.
What is the Global Statement?
Imagine each of the 196 countries of the world giving their own statement on fossil fuel subsidies - this is exactly what the Global Statement aims to do. The Global Statement is an attempt by One Young World delegates/Ambassadors to collate a report representative of the global situation with regards to ending fossil fuel subsidies – country to country, as a compare mechanism. Till date, only around 134 countries have declared their support to end fossil fuel subsidies, as per Oil Change International.
There is currently no framework for reporting of fossil fuel subsidies on an international level, as well as limitations in the measurement and estimation of these subsidies. Thus, if executed correctly, this project could result in one of the very few sources of data on fossil fuel subsidies that represents all 196 countries.
How does it work?
The Global Statement represents a new form of activism, one which goes beyond petitions. Using its unique global platform, One Young World Ambassadors present in each of the 196 countries will request their individual governments to give a statement answering questions such as amount of fossil fuel subsidies given by the Government, plans to end fossil fuels (and by when), and any limiting factors that is preventing the Government from ending fossil fuel subsidies. These individual country statements will then be collated into the Global Statement, to be presented to the individual governments again on a set date in 2013.
Most Ambassadors are involved with some type of environmental initiative and the Sustainable Development Session will look at the roles of different agents in the climate change debate: governments; business; individuals; and institutions such as the UN. Delegates will talk about the interactions many of them have had with governments and explore why green policies are taking such a long time to emerge. The unique nature of One Young World means that this will be one of the only opportunities internationally for every nation to discuss this global issue.
The Summit will explore the recent 350.org campaign and the Twitterstorm surrounding fossil fuel subsidies as examples of youth engagement with environmental concerns. As with all the One Young World Summits, delegates will explore ways in which these positive movements can be developed to achieve tangible progress.
74% of One Young World Ambassadors are extremely or very concerned about climate change
17% Only 17% of Ambassadors believe world leaders are going at the right speed to tackle climate change
*statistics taken from the One Young World 2012 Plenary Consultation
WHAT’S WRONG WITH FOSSIL FUELS?
Almost everything. It’s a no-brainer that the fossil fuels coal, oil, and natural gas come with extreme environmental problems. Even after more than 200 years, fossil fuels continue to dominate the supply of the world’s energy needs. This dependency on fossil fuels comes at the cost of:
- a) Climate change The extraction and burning of fossil fuels is the single largest contributor to climate change, with the burning of fossil fuel representing two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions as per OECD.
- b) Air pollution We’re soon to run out of clean air as the burning of fossil fuels releases large amounts of harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen compounds and particulate matter. When ingested, these air pollutants cause severe health issues.
- c) Yet more environmental damage Coal mining, drilling and transporting oil and gas can negatively impact our fragile ecosystems. For instance, oil spills kill marine life and contaminate our sea and shorelines for several years.
- d) Finite resources Fossil fuels are a result of millions of years of natural decomposition of prehistoric animals and plants. Energy from fossil fuels is non-renewable, which implies that we only have a finite stock of fossil fuel reserves. These reserves will not last forever, forcing us to look for alternative, renewable sources of energy.
WHAT ARE FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines a fossil fuel subsidy as any government action (for eg. tax breaks, giveaways, loan at favorable rates, etc.) that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers or lowers the price paid by energy consumers.
In simpler words, fossil fuel subsidies can be defined as our governments’ way of funding climate change and making the rich (the fossil fuel industry) even richer - all this mainly using taxpayers’ money and government investments. Does not make sense, isn’t it?
There are two basic types of fossil fuel subsidies:
- 1. Production subsidies: Tax breaks and other monetary benefits offered to fossil fuel production companies (common in developed countries).
- 2. Consumption subsidies: The lowering of the public price of fossil fuels (common in developing countries).
Oil Change International (OCI) reports that the most recent and reliable estimate of global fossil fuel subsidies provided in 2012 is a staggering amount of USD 775 billion. This amount includes USD 665 billion worth of consumption subsidies and USD 100 billion worth of production subsidies .
Due to the lack of transparency at which these subsidies are reported, global fossil fuel subsidies could actually be USD 1 trillion in 2012.2
TOP THREE REASONS TO END FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES
- 1. Fossil fuel subsidies are an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money “Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising.” – President Obama, 29 March 2012 We are in a time of economic hardship and looming climate change. Yet, taxpayers’ money and government investments are being given to one of the most profitable and most environmentally destructive industry – the fossil fuel industry. This money, or rather "scarce public funds" can be used to combat climate change, alleviate poverty, invest in renewables, transit towards a green economy or invest in health and education.
- 2. A solution to combat climate change is to stop funding it We subsidise anything we want to encourage. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will result in a reduction in the production and consumption of fossil fuels. This, in turn, will greatly contribute to the greenhouse gas reductions needed to stay below the climate ‘tipping point’ of 2oC. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies can also free up finance needed for urgent mitigation and adaptation of climate change, for instance the use of renewable energy. Currently, fossil fuels are subsidized at nearly six times the rate of renewable energy, according to the chief adviser to oil-importing nations.
- 3. Fossil fuel subsidies are not contributing to “development” Fossil fuel subsidies are impeding progress towards what the world most needs today – a development that promotes economic growth, is socially inclusive and that protects our environment. A joint report from the NRDC and OCI indicates “production subsidies do not lower energy prices or affect production rates” and that “consumption subsidies do not benefit the poor”, defeating several of the main purposes of these subsidies. In fact, a survey conducted by the IEA of 11 developing nations comprising about half of the world’s population found that found that only between 2 to 11 percent of fossil fuel consumption subsidies benefit the poorest populations2.
2Oil Change International (2012), Low Hanging Fruit - Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Climate Finance, and Sustainable Development, Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, Washington, D.C.
PROGRESS AND GAPS
G20: the need to translate previous commitments into concrete actions Good news is that there has been a growing global political momentum for fossil fuel subsidy removal, the biggest coming from G20 member states and members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) committing to “rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption” in 2009. Since then, roughly 134 countries have declared their support to end fossil fuel subsidies, as per Oil Change International.
Bad news is that despite this historic commitment by G20, no subsidies have actually been eliminated as a result of it. The vague definition of fossil fuel subsidies in the commitment text, as well as absence of a concrete plan has led many countries to “opt-out”.
Rio+20: failure to address the end of fossil fuel subsidies Following G20’s lack of progress, much hope were pinned on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. However, despite massive civil society efforts, the text of the final agreement included merely a limp "invitation" for countries to end only "inefficient subsidies". There was neither a definition of "inefficient" nor a timeline or accountability for phasing them out.
Lack of transparency and consistency in fossil fuel subsidy reporting Currently, countries are self-reporting their fossil fuel subsidies and disclosures on the same have been lacking. Instead, non-reporting is growing. In order to initiate a subsidy reform, there is an urgent need for transparency in subsidy reporting. Some civil society groups are asking for a new institutional role which will facilitate the collection, analysis and transparent publication of fossil fuel subsidy data for all countries involved.
The need to incorporate safeguards to developing countries, as well as poor and vulnerable groups
A lack of planning and poor implementation of the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies can backfire, mainly in developing countries. Nigeria is one such example where the sudden subsidy removal on gasoline prices created havoc within the country earlier this year. The removal of fossil fuel subsidies, particularly consumption subsidies, will require safeguards for the poor and vulnerable groups. It will also require financial, technical and capacity building support in developing countries, where needed.
2012: The birth of a global civil society movement
There have been an increasing number of prominent figures and high-level authorities (such as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US President Barack Obama and Economist Lord Nicholas Stern) who have voiced out support for removal of fossil fuel subsidies. However, 2012 saw people from around the world unite and bring fossil fuel subsidies to the global limelight. It started with the release of a statement made by 75 NGOs worldwide to eliminate these subsidies ahead of the utterly crucial Rio+20 and G20 Summit, both having took place in June 2012. But a clear signal was given when over a million people signed to online petitions calling for the end of fossil fuel subsidies. A ‘twitterstorm’ launched on 18 June made #endfossilfuelsubsidies the top trend globally.