Climate talks bring fossil fuel subsidies in focus
BY KARL RITTER Associated Press
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
12/04/12 at 6:26 AM
Hassan al-Kubaisi considers it a gift from above that drivers in oil- and gas-rich Qatar only have to pay $1 per gallon at the pump.
"Thank God that our country is an oil producer and the price of gasoline is one of the lowest," al-Kubaisi said, filling up his Toyota Land Cruiser at a gas station in Doha. "God has given us a blessing."
To those looking for a global response to climate change, it's more like a curse.
Qatar - the host of U.N. climate talks that entered their final week Monday - is among dozens of countries that keep gas prices artificially low through subsidies that exceeded $500 billion globally last year. Renewable energy worldwide received six times less support - an imbalance that is just starting to earn attention in the divisive negotiations on curbing the carbon emissions blamed for heating the planet.
"We need to stop funding the problem, and start funding the solution," said Steve Kretzmann, of Oil Change International, an advocacy group for clean energy.
His group presented research Monday showing that in addition to the fuel subsidies in developing countries, rich nations in 2011 gave more than $58 billion in tax breaks and other production subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The U.S. figure was $13 billion.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has calculated that removing fossil fuel subsidies could reduce carbon emissions more than 10 percent by 2050.
Yet the argument is just recently gaining traction in climate negotiations, which in two decades have failed to halt the rising temperatures that are melting Arctic ice, raising sea levels and shifting weather patterns with impacts on droughts and floods.
In Doha, the talks have been slowed by wrangling over financial aid to help poor countries cope with global warming and how to divide carbon emissions rights until 2020 when a new planned climate treaty is supposed to enter force. Calls are now intensifying to include fossil fuel subsidies as a key part of the discussion.
Original Print Headline: Fossil fuel subsidies in focus at climate talks