A report published today by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that, in total, world governments handed out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $5.3 trillion a year, or roughly $10 million a minute, Common Dreams reported.
Leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year, energy subsidy reform has been an important topic on the international agenda. This study examined just how large these subsidies and their impacts actually are.
The authors found that the effects of energy subsidy reform would be “potentially enormous.”
“Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion, cut global [carbon dioxide] emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut premature air pollution deaths by more than half … [and] would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion.”
Naturally, the US is one of the worst offenders, handing the fossil fuel industry $699 billion, coming in behind China, which gave out $2.3 trillion in subsidies. Rounding out the top five were Russia ($335 billion), India ($277 billion) and Japan ($157 billion). The European Union as a whole gave $330 billion in subsidies.
“…[It] is important to put in perspective just how many health problems are linked to energy consumption and air quality,” said an IMF blog post accompanying the study. “In China alone, the World Health Organization estimates there are over one million premature deaths per year due to outdoor air pollution, caused by the burning of polluting fuels, particularly coal, and other sources.”
The $5.3 trillion in subsidies given to fossil fuel companies is more than is spent on public health for the entire globe. It also surpasses “the world’s total public investment spending.” Imagine what could be done with that money, especially in poorer countries.
“[Subsidy reform] would give room, for example, for governments to reduce some type of taxes that weigh down growth (such as those imposed on labor); raise grown-enhancing public expenditure (e.g. for infrastructure, health and education); and finance targeted cash transfers for the poor. Furthermore, there would be appropriate incentives for investment in green technology because dirty energy would no longer be artificially cheap.”
Stopping the trillions of dollars unnecessarily floating to the fossil fuel industry is a win-win for everyone except the fossil fuel industry, and as the IFM blogpost said “icing on the cake,” the benefits would help on both local and global stages.