End to fossil fuel subsidies ‘would cut global emissions by 12%’

Cutting subsidies for fossil fuels could result in an 'immediate boost' of a 10%-12% reduction in greenhouse gases, according to a director of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership'.

Sandrine Dixson-Declève told the European Wind Energy Conference last week there is a “real window of opportunity” to move away from fossil fuel subsidies thanks to the low oil price.

She said that global fossil fuel subsidies cost $5.3trn a year and cost the average UK family £1,000 per year. Renewable energy on the other hand costs £100 per family per year and produces 25% of UK power. 

Dixson-Declève said: “We believe that Europe is at a crossroads; either you create a competitive system that responds to energy security but also to climate concerns or you become increasingly uncompetitive.

“Fossil fuel subsidy reform is absolutely crucial to create a level playing field.”

At the very least, the end to subsidies would remove an artificial market force supporting the burning of fossil fuels, while the money could also be reallocated towards renewables subsidies.

More than 600,000 people have signed a petition calling on G20 Governments to end fossil fuel support.

The petition, hosted by campaign group Avaaz, follows a report which revealed that G20 Governments collectively handed out $452bn in subsidies for fossil fuels in both 2013 and 2014 – four times the amount allocated globally for renewables.

Misallocation of resources?

The UK’s Solar Trade Association (STA) also issued a call last week, for the end to these payments which it says “distort the energy market”. The STA also unveiled a recent survey of 1,716 UK adults, which showed that subsidies for solar power are roughly 22 times lower than the public thinks.

On average, respondents estimated that solar accounts for £196 on an average household bill of £1,300. The actual figure is £9.

STA chief executive Paul Barwell said: “The Government has justified the cuts to solar and renewables on the basis of reducing costs on bills, but hasn’t told people that the cost of getting solar subsidy-free – a breakthrough achievement – is relatively modest.”

“This survey shows that solar is cheaper than many people think, and that the perception of the cost of solar on bills has become grossly inflated. We need to put this right.”

The STA’s poll comes as the Government is due to make its final decision later this year on how much to cut Feed-in Tariff subsidies for solar. The Department of Energy and Climate Change this summer published proposals to slash tariffs by up to 87% and set stringent caps on the maximum amount of solar that can be deployed.

Brad Allen

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