The world is still too reliant on fossil fuels, and most governments are doing nothing to stop it.
Right now, the world is spending $11 million per minute on fossil fuel subsidies. Yes, you heard that right. $11 million per minute. An unfathomable amount of money, all being poured into the very thing that’s causing climate destruction around the world.
The kick in the teeth, however, is that, time and time again, we’ve promised that change is coming. 13 years ago, G20 countries came together and pledged to phase out fossil fuels by 2020. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, 6 years ago the EU vowed to do it by 2025. The truth is, with less than 3 years to go until that deadline, the world seems just as reliant on fossil fuels than ever.
Fossil fuels make up approximately 80% of the world’s energy. Our reliance is slowing down, for sure, but not remotely fast enough. Year on year, the world’s fossil fuel consumption actually rises to new record highs. Even now, with the constant pressure of the climate crisis, it is only coal and gas that have dropped less than 1%. And, despite the push for greener energy solutions, the world’s share of renewable energy has only risen from 10.6% to 11.7%. Shockingly, over half (15 out of 27) EU member states have spent more money on fossil fuel subsidies than renewable energy subsidies.
Fossil fuels, and the companies that provide them, have fully cemented their grip on the world’s energy production; something even UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has recognised as he stated that fossil fuel producers have the world by the throat. Shifting away from fossil fuels, much less phasing them out completely, is going to be a very difficult job.
One of the lesser-known tools in fossil fuel producers’ belts are investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS), where countries can be sued by fossil fuel investors for harming their assets. There are currently around 231 known ISDS cases globally, and the success rate for fossil fuel companies is at 72%, with most receiving payouts of around $600 million. One example was when Canadian natural gas company TC Energy sought $15 billion from the US government, after Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline in 2021. Overall, ISDS cases could cause countries a combined $340 billion, making phasing out fossil fuels seem like an almost impossible task.
Some governments are taking the initiative however, although the question of whether they are doing enough still remains. In the UK, a windfall tax announced in May could see oil and gas companies taxed 25% on their profits, and will help towards each UK household receiving a £400 pound discount and the 8 million poorest receiving a one-off £650 cost-of-living grant.
In the EU, €300 million of investments will be made by 2030, to move EU countries away from their dependence on Russian-sourced fossil fuels, a consequence of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. €288 million of this sum will be used to fund renewable energy.
Ultimately, however, for many, it’s too little too late. Global temperatures are rising, cities are experiencing record heat waves, and more people are seeing negative health impacts due to the climate crisis – a crisis that stems entirely from our overconsumption of fossil fuels.
$11 million per minute. Think about that number, count to 60 seconds, and imagine spending that much to fund an industry that is destroying our world, an industry that cares more about immediate profit than how their operations are affecting the world and people’s lives.
Fossil fuel producers have been running the show for too long now. Governments can no longer be pushed around. As the world gets hotter their wallets only get fatter. And the ones the ones handing over the dollars are the people who claim to put carbon neutrality first.
Recycle your plastics, turn off your lights, use bamboo toothbrushes. But remember, every minute another $11 million is being shelled out to the ones who are intent on making our world uninhabitable.