All signs point to clean energy benefits as IMF uncovers ‘shocking’ fossil fuel subsidies


The economic benefits of the growing global renewable energy sector are on full display this week as concerns about energy subsidies cast into doubt the wisdom of propping up polluting fossil fuels. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported Tuesday that 7.7 million people are employed in the renewable sector worldwide—an 18% increase over the last year. According to the report, solar is the largest employer worldwide, and China, Brazil, and the United States boast the largest overall employment figures. The astounding growth of renewable energy sources even managed to outshine “shocking” numbers from the International Monetary Fund showing that fossil fuels are globally subsidized at the rate of $10 million dollars a minute. The IMF found the cost of these subsidies, along with the external costs associated with extracting and burning coal, oil and gas, adds up to $5.3 trillion each year. In Australia, where attacks on renewable energy are commonplace, the resulting policies have cost the nation billions. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies are higher than the total health spending by all the world’s governments combined. As concerns mount about some of the world’s richest companies receiving huge taxpayer handouts, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is demanding that governments redouble their efforts to fight climate change, add new jobs in the emerging green economy, and ensure a just transition to renewable sources of energy.


RT @UNFCCC: IMF says gvts to spend $5.3 trillion on #fossilfuel subsidies this year, more than on health

Key Points

  • The transition to our inevitable clean energy future requires vast, unjust fossil fuel subsidies to be eliminated. Over $5 trillion globally is spent subsidising dirty energy, either directly or by allowing fossil fuel companies to avoid paying the health, environmental, and social costs their dirty products create. Supporting fossil fuels is self defeating, as it subsidises something damaging to health and our planet’s future.
  • Supporting clean energy means more jobs, economic growth, and a safer world compared to continuing to do business as usual. More than 7.7 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy industry according to IRENA. A study by the NewClimate Institute found the EU, US and China’s climate commitments will result in almost one million new jobs by 2030, prevent around 113,000 premature deaths from air pollution, and huge savings from avoiding the high costs of imported fossil fuels. More ambitious plans for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 would collectively create around three million jobs by 2030, save around two million lives, and save US$520 billion on fossil fuel imports per year.
  • Major labor players are lining up to support renewable energy. Unions like the International Trade Union Conference (ITUC) are backing the transition to low-carbon economies that will create quality clean energy jobs. Forging a strong global agreement in Paris will pave the way for an investment and jobs boom, and will set the world on a path to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. With stronger storms and more severe droughts already harming communities around the globe, the time for a just transition is now.



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Key quotes

  • “Renewable energy continues to assert itself as a major global employer, generating strong economic and social benefits worldwide. This increase is being driven, in part, by declining renewable energy technology costs, which creates more jobs in installation, operations and maintenance. If we continue to invest in renewable energy and its multiple economic, environmental and social benefits, employment in renewables will continue to climb. IRENA’s research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, would result in more than 16 million jobs worldwide.” – IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin
  • “Government inaction is putting lives and livelihoods at risk and we are out of time. The science is in, we demand climate justice and we are taking our demands to parliaments around the world. Workers have a right to know what their governments will do to secure their future. Politicians who are not prepared to commit to decarbonise our world and save us from the horrors of climate change don’t deserve to be elected.” – ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow
  • “This very important [IMF] analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries. A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.” – London School of Economics economist Lord Nicholas Stern

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