Fossil fuel industries spent an estimated $213 million lobbying U.S. and European Union decision makers last year, according to a new report published by Oxfam International on Friday.
In the U.S. alone, the estimated 2013 bill for lobbying activities by fossil fuel interests amounted to $160 million, said the report called Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance.
In addition, the 40-page report said, the global fossil fuel sector receives approximately $1.9 trillion in subsidies each year.
“In the absence of robust climate legislation, finance continues to flow unabated into the fossil fuel industry,” the report said. “At the current rate of capital expenditure, the next decade will see over $6 trillion allocated to developing the fossil fuel industry.”
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, the report said, but every day more than 800 million people go to bed hungry.
“This is a scandal – and climate change is set to make things even worse,” the report added. “Fossil fuels are the single biggest driver of climate change; if the world is to avoid exceeding dangerous global warming of 2°C, up to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.”
Avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences associated with unchecked climate change requires a rapid and urgent transition to low-carbon economies globally, the report said.
It also said fossil fuel interests spend millions of dollars every year lobbying to defend their bottom line, given that they have so much to lose from ambitious climate regulation.
This ‘toxic triangle’ of political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests stands in the way of the [low-carbon] transition needed, it said.
“The lack of necessary government ambition to shift away from fossil fuels results in continued investment by the global financial sector based on an assumption that fossil fuels are here to stay – buoyed by the rhetoric of the fossil fuel industry itself.”
Noting that sustainable low-carbon technologies are rapidly decreasing in cost and beginning to compete with dirty energy, the report said decentralized sustainable renewable energy also offers significant opportunities to provide more suitable and less costly energy access for the poorest and most marginalized communities.
“Governments globally could tip the balance in favour of a low-carbon future and send the right signals to unleash the finance for this transition through committing to phase out fossil fuel emissions by early in the second half of this century.”
The report concluded that rich developed nations must move first and fastest to rapidly reduce emissions and shift away from fossil fuels. It also said, however, that developing countries must also be part of collective efforts even if they require financial assistance during the transition.
“Governments globally must agree a fair, equitable and legally binding [emissions-reduction agreement] in Paris in 2015, and rich country governments must urgently scale up global public climate finance – in the first instance, to meet the existing commitment to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 – to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
In an accompanying media release, Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said the fossil fuel industry is benefitting from a toxic triangle it has constructed that is trapping humankind in a warming world.
“Our continued dependence on fossil fuels is not inevitable but the deliberate choice of the industry, timid governments and short-sighted investors. This is all about big profits for the few with little care for the rest of us – particularly the world’s poorest people who are already being made hungry by climate change,” Byanyima was quoted as saying.
“Investors and governments – starting with the richest countries that are most responsible for our climate crisis – need to urgently shift their funding to renewable and clean alternatives. This would not only offer good, sustainable investment opportunities but will set us on course to tackle the threat of climate change with the urgency that both the science and people all around the world demand.”
The Oxfam report was published one week before EU politicians vote on a new climate and energy package with higher emissions-reduction, energy-savings and renewables-growth targets for 2030.
The Oxfam media release says European leaders must resist pressure from the fossil fuel industry and agree to targets of at least 55 per cent in emission-reductions by 2030, 40 per cent in energy savings and a minimum of 45 per cent of renewables in the energy mix.
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