G20 spent four on fossil fuel production than subsidies on renewables

The G20 countries spent around four times as much to prop up fossil fuel production as they did to subsidise renewable energy, which placed a  question mark over the commitment to halting climate change, a think tank said on Thursday.

According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the G20 spent an average $78 billion on national subsidies delivered through direct spending and tax breaks in 2013 and 2014.

A further $286 billion was invested in fossil fuel production by G20 state-owned enterprises and related public finance was estimated at an average of a further $88 billion a year.

However, renewable energy subsidies in 2013 were projected at $121 billion by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Turkey, which is set to host leaders of the G20 this weekend, paid national subsidies for fossil fuel production amounting to $627 million annually in 2013 and 2014, according to ODI's report. The figure might be higher on account of missing data, it said.

Additionally, Turkish state-owned enterprises invested $1 billion in fossil fuel production domestically, under a strategy of rapid expansion of coal-fired generation and coal production.

Global subsidies for renewable energy production stood at just $121 billion a year, according to the report by the think-tank, and research group Oil Change.

"G20 governments are paying fossil fuel producers to undermine their own policies on climate change," the ODI's Shelagh Whitley said in a statement.

"Scrapping these subsidies would rebalance energy markets and allow a level playing field for clean and efficient alternatives."

G20 countries supported calls to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies at meetings in 2009 and 2014, but no significant progress had been achieved, the report said.

It added, G20 governments needed to adopt strict timelines for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and transfer government financial support to greener forms of energy.

According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) subsidies to oil and coal producers included direct payments including grants, loans and equity, tax credits, and price supports.