Guest post: From Glasgow to Geneva: stop subsidizing animals | SDG Knowledge Center
By RÃ©mi Parmentier, director at the Varda Group. Twitter: @ RÃ©miParmentier
Logic dictates that if you want to starve a beast, you have to stop feeding it. As a result, common sense dictates that governments should stop funding activities that contribute to the crises they are striving to solve like mad.
It was therefore obvious for the Glasgow Climate Pact adopted at COP 26 to include a call for the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. As long as governments use taxpayer dollars to support the development and operation of coal, oil and natural gas infrastructure, they will undermine their own commitments to the Paris Agreement goal of sustaining global warming. below 1.5 Â° C.
Governments should stop funding the activities that are at the root of the crises they are trying to solve like mad.
When the adjective “inefficient” was added to “phase out fossil fuel subsidies” to weaken that commitment, it fooled no one. All fossil fuel subsidies are ineffective because they are a barrier to effective climate action and sustainable development, and in so doing, they increase the vulnerability of people and our planet to the impacts of climate change.
In 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), coal, oil and natural gas received around $ 470 billion in explicit subsidies. Also in 2020, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) identified some $ 634 billion in subsidies to the energy sector and found that around 70% went to fossil fuels.
The latest nationally determined contributions combined (NDC) submitted as part of the Paris Agreement at COP 26 will put us on a warming trajectory of 2.7 Â° C, far from the target of 1.5 Â° C. The Glasgow governments therefore agreed that the NDCs should be revised and improved next year, and not wait for the five years stipulated by the Paris Agreement. A clear and effective way to reflect increased ambition in NDCs would be to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and use that money to invest in improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy.
The next government meeting to discuss subsidies is fast approaching. The multilateral forum for the discussion and regulation of subsidies is the World Trade Organization (WTO) which is preparing to hold a ministerial conference for the first time since 2017. The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from November 30 to December 3, 2021.
In recent months, WTO Members have debated the role they can play in support for climate action and the Paris Agreement. Agreeing on a mechanism to ‘discipline’ fossil fuel subsidies and a timetable for eliminating them would be the right thing to do. Within the WTO, a group of Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform has been meeting for some time. It is time for them to make their voices heard, and for their reform proposal to be put in place in accordance with the Glasgow Climate Pact.
But will he do it? The 20-year record of the WTO fisheries subsidy negotiations is not encouraging.
In 2001, WTO ministers launched negotiations to eliminate a much smaller set of “harmful” subsidies. fishing subsidies which contribute to overfishing and overcapacity as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated (âIUUâ) fishing and are estimated at some USD 22 billion per year. This is considerably less than fossil fuel subsidies, but after 20 years the WTO has still not reached a consensus on eliminating harmful subsidies to fisheries.
Preventing the deliberate plunder of fish should be as obvious as deciding not to fuel the climate crisis further. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in the two decades since the start of the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies, the proportion of overexploited fish stocks has increased from 25% to 34%. Scientists have calculated that removing harmful fisheries subsidies could increase fish biomass by 12.5% ââby 2050, or 35 million metric tonnes of fish that would help alleviate hunger and restore marine biodiversity.
Seeing that the WTO discussions were at a standstill, the United Nations General Assembly called on the WTO in 2015 to conclude the negotiations on fisheries subsidies “by 2020”, within the framework of the Sustainable development goals. WTO negotiators are said to be working day and night to reach a “fisheries deal” before their trade ministers arrive in Geneva on November 30. But it is still not clear whether they will manage to “close the deal”.
If the elimination of $ 22 billion in fisheries subsidies takes 20 years or more, what chance is there of eliminating the $ 470 billion fossil fuel subsidies in time to prevent a change? catastrophic climate? In a few days, the trade ministers of the 164 Members of the WTO will have to answer this question. An existential question not only for the WTO, but for humanity as a whole.