Tag Archives: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Paris Conference: Broad consensus on phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies

Repost from Government Offices of Sweden

Broad consensus on phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies

01 December 2015

Global fossil fuel subsidies totalled USD 548 billion in 2013. At the COP21 climate conference, which is under way in Paris, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven presented a communiqué to the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres. The communiqué outlines important messages on how the world can phase out fossil fuels. A large number of countries and organisations are backing the messages, which were produced by the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform group.

Photo: Hanna Björnfors

Sweden, alongside likeminded countries, advocates for the phasing out of subsidies to fossil energy through the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform group. The group’s aim is to promote such a phase-out globally. The communiqué that was presented at the climate conference calls on the international community to mitigate climate change by accelerating action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. The communiqué is a politically non-binding pledge on the importance of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

“It is impressive that so many countries and organisations are now coming together to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. This is a key issue that the international community must resolve to enable sustainable development,” said Mr Löfven.

Sweden has played an active role in the efforts to gather as many countries and organisations as possible behind the communiqué. Some 39 countries from around the world and 100 international organisations and companies now back the communiqué and its messages. At national level, Sweden is demonstrating its commitment and contributions through the Fossil-free Sweden initiative.

The communiqué was presented on 30 November at the COP21 Leaders Event on the first day of the conference in Paris. Mr Löfven was a moderator at the meeting, which was also attended by heads of state from Norway, New Zealand and the Netherlands, ministers from the Marshall Islands, Morocco and Peru, and representatives of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the business sector.

Fact box: Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform

Alongside some thirty other countries, Sweden is a member of the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (FFFSR) group. The group was formed in 2010 to encourage G20 and APEC leaders to deliver on their commitment to phase out ineffective fossil fuel subsidies from 2009 onwards.

Fossil fuel subsidies totalled an estimated USD 548 billion in 2013, which is around five times higher than support to renewable energy. Various studies have shown that if subsidies are eliminated, global emissions would decrease significantly. Phasing out subsidies is an important and cost-effective measure and, moreover, the subsidies primarily benefit middle- and high-income earners.

The FFFSR countries jointly courted the G20 countries between 2011 and 2014 to push for fossil fuel subsidy reform in those countries. The group has also held seminars and workshops at UN climate conferences, the World Bank Spring Meeting and in connection with OECD meetings.

 

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    Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

    Repost from ClimateProgress

    Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

    By Emily Atkin, June 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Shell, Statoil, Total, and BP were four of six companies to request a price on carbon be included in international policy frameworks. Six large European oil and gas companies are asking governments across the world to charge them for the carbon dioxide they emit.

    In a letter released Monday, Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni, and the BG Group told the chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that a price on carbon “should be a key element” of an international agreement to address global climate change. The letter came while U.N. negotiators met in Bonn, Germany to work towards that agreement.

    For those who want to fight climate change, this is good news. But it’s not totally unprecedented. Other high-emitting companies, including Shell, have expressed support for a carbon price before. And big oil companies have been expecting some sort of carbon price for a long time — the biggest ones have already incorporated it into their business plans. Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, Shell; they’re all financially prepared for a carbon price if and when it comes their way.

    That more and more oil companies are now actively calling for a carbon price, though, is good for the climate fight. Total, BP, Statoil, and Royal Dutch Shell are all among the 90 companies causing the vast majority of global warming via their exorbitant carbon emissions. Now, they’re acknowledging they want to at least pay for some of those emissions, and that seems like a positive development.

    At the same time, it’s not like any of those six companies are halting their plans to drill. They haven’t recognized the science that says two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic warming. Shell is still planning to explore for oil in the Arctic; BP just recently expanded its operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

    More importantly, though — at least in terms of getting a carbon price in the final U.N. climate deal — the European companies that signed the letter wield little power within the U.S. Congress compared to other big oil companies. This matters because the terms of that deal will almost certainly have to be approved by Congress if it is to include an enforceable price on carbon. Under U.S. law, any international agreement that binds or prohibits the United States from actions not otherwise mandated by law must be ratified by Congress.

    BP, Statoil, and Total might be actively calling for a carbon tax, but the three biggest U.S. oil companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — aren’t. (ExxonMobil says they would prefer a carbon tax to a cap-and-trade system, but they don’t outright support it). And those U.S. companies are spending much more to influence Congress than the letter-writing companies on campaign donations and lobbying.

    Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions.
    Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions. CREDIT: Patrick Smith

    To be fair, European companies have more restrictions on how much they can give than U.S.-based companies do. But not only are the biggest U.S. companies spending far more to influence U.S. politics, their money is going to politicians who are actively fighting efforts to price carbon in the United States.

    During the 2014 election, for example, the biggest receiver of funds from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips was former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu marketed herself, among other things, as the “key vote” that made sure a carbon pricing system wasn’t implemented by Congress in 2010. Other candidates supported by those three companies were John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Mark Begich, John Cornyn — all have said they oppose a price on carbon.

    In fact, the Republican party as a whole in the United States is opposed to policies that price carbon. Though it says nothing about a carbon tax, the last official Republican party platform touts opposition to “any and all cap-and-trade legislation.” Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of all oil company campaign contributions is going to Republicans.

    oillobby (1)
    Oil Lobby CREDIT: Patrick Smith

    There are other reasons to be skeptical of any big oil company fighting for a price on carbon. For one, some companies have said they would support a carbon tax, but only if they can avoid other climate-related regulations. As David Roberts pointed out for Grist back in 2012, “the fossil fuel lobby would never give a carbon tax their OK unless EPA regulations on carbon (and possibly other pollution regs) were scrapped.” It’s also reasonable to assume that oil companies see profits increasing in the markets for low-carbon natural gas while the high-emitting coal industry tanks, and realize that coal would be hurt far worse by the policy.

    In other words, it is great that some of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change want to be charged for the carbon they emit. But we still have a long way to go before big oil actually joins the fight.

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