G-20 should look to BP disaster for lessons on fossil fuel subsidies

World leaders gathering at the G-20 summit in Toronto this weekend need look no further than the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to recognize the need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

The dark ooze coating the coastal marshes and pelicans are grim symbols of why the world needs to encourage greater investment in clean energy sources.  Fossil fuel subsidies — such as tax breaks for oil and coal companies — do nothing but undermine incentives for developing clean energy sources and encourage the world to stay on its grimy diet of coal, oil and gas.

Early indications are that the G-20 — despite the horrendous economic and environmental disaster unfolding to their south — is going to renege on last September’s pledge in Pittsburgh to “phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support for the poorest.”

A leaked draft of this year’s communiqué being widely reported in the news media offers this anemic pledge: “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.”

That would be an extraordinarily short-sighted approach:  There is no better solution for any nation’s economic woes than creating low-carbon economies that will create new jobs and enhance national security for each country.

It’s time for the G-20 to be leaders, not laggards, on climate.  The world is watching.

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