Monday, July 18, 2016

Capitalism's failure to honour climate change pledges

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, Ban Ki-moon’s climate change envoy has accused the UK and Germany of backtracking on the spirit of the Paris climate deal by financing the fossil fuel industry through subsidies. Governments at COP21 in Paris last year not only pledged to phase out fossil fuels in the long term but to make flows of finance consistent with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“They’ve [the British government] introduced new tax breaks for oil and gas in 2015 that will cost the UK taxpayer billions between 2015 and 2020, and at the same time they’ve cut support for renewables and for energy efficiency,” she told the Guardian. “It’s regrettable. That’s not in the spirit [of Paris]. In many ways, the UK was a real leader [on climate change] and hopefully the UK will become again a real leader. But it’s not at the moment.”

Robinson said that while Germany had made some positive steps such as aiding developing countries on climate change, it was sending mixed messages. “Germany says its on track to end coal subsidies by 2018 but the German government is also introducing new mechanisms that provide payment to power companies for their ability to provide a constant supply of electricity, even if they are polluting forms, such as diesel and coal,” she said. She called on Germany to make a real commitment to get out of coal.

She said, “We want all countries to end [fossil fuel] subsidies.” Robinson said she been to Ethiopia recently and seen firsthand the way manmade climate change was exacerbating natural climate phenomena such as El Niño, which brings drought to some parts of the world, and flooding to others. “I saw so many malnourished children, and it’s not tolerable.”

A group of international statesmen and women including her, Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu, known as the Elders, released a statement saying they had “major concerns” about action by leaders since the Paris agreement last December. Presidents and prime ministers across the world are making investment decisions that run contrary the Paris deal, they warned. “Some countries are even increasing subsidies to fossil fuel production. This is simply not good enough. While all countries need to act, the industrialised and wealthy countries must lead by example.”

A G7 pledge in May to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 was “too vague” a commitment and the summit in Japan failed to take action to end subsidies, the group said. Furthermore, the Elders said they were concerned that the world’s top 10 biggest greenhouse gas emitters had not yet ratified the Paris deal. The US and China have both pledged to ratify the deal this year, which only comes into force once at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions have ratified.

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