Three years ago I was in Pittsburgh and witnessed the G20 leaders commit to phasing out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term”. That wasn´t the urgency we were looking for then, or the one sought with the global #endfossilfuelsubsidies twitter storm today.
We did hope then that by 2012 we would have seen some progress, but the silence has been deafening; they have done absolutely nothing at all. Far from actually shifting subsidies from ‘bads’ to ‘goods’, G20 governments have yet to even define what they mean by “inefficient” or “medium term”. Nor are they being transparent on the size of the subsidies.
Developed world governments plead here at the Rio+20 Earth Summit that they cannot offer new money to deliver sustainable development globally. Canada even wants to delete any reference to the commitment developed countries made 40 (!) years ago to spend 0.7 percent of national income on aid. Yes, the same Canada which is perfectly happy to hand out over $900 million to tar sands oil.
Developed world governments are epitomising hypocrisy here in Rio. They can´t say they have no money to deliver the Future We Want while handing out hundreds of millions to big oil, big coal and big gas (not to mention the billions they spent on saving greedy banks).
The reason governments are continuing to dole out subsidies to the fossil fuel dinosaurs of the past is the same reason why government are failing here at Rio+20: they are serving the short-term interests of a small number of polluting corporations. It is these corporations who are standing in the way of a fair and green economy.
Rio+20 should deliver transformational change, such as providing renewable energy to the over 1 billion people still without access to electricity. Instead, Rio+20 will be the next meeting ground of the fossil fools gathered in Mexico today. Back in Pittsburgh, I was a little bit hopeful. Here in Rio, that hope has shifted to anger and despair at our governments’ failure to meet the crises of economy, equity and ecology by investing in our future rather than subsidising our past.
Patricia Lerner is a Senior Political Advisor with Greenpeace International, based in Amsterdam