Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Prioritizing Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform in the UNFCCC Process: Recommendations for Short-Term Actions

Though many Parties to the UNFCCC have noted the climate change mitigation benefits of fossil-fuel subsidy reform, it is time for Parties to take engagement on this issue to the next level.

The negotiations are currently focused on two primary goals: (1) negotiating a protocol or other legal instrument to be signed in 2015 and take effect in 2020, and (2) increasing pre-2020 mitigation ambition to ensure UNFCCC Parties’ emissions reduction pledges reach the necessary level to keep average temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Fossil-fuel subsidy reform can contribute significantly to this second goal—especially because it is a measure that is ready and available to be deployed today. Parties do not need to wait until an agreement is negotiated to take advantage of the UNFCCC forum and its various bodies to advance reform.

The GSI recommends that Parties to the UNFCCC:

  1. Propose options for addressing fossil-fuel subsidy reform under Workstream 2—for example, through technical workshops and discussions—in country submissions to the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).
  2. Explore the possibility of developing fossil-fuel subsidy reform as a nationally appropriate mitigation action (NAMA). Interested developing countries can consider communicating to the Secretariat that they intend to implement fossil-fuel subsidy reform as a NAMA and request support.
  3. Raise fossil-fuel subsidy reform in submissions to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), requesting methodological issues related to reform be added to the agenda or discussed in a dedicated workshop.
  4. Include fossil-fuel subsidy reform on the agenda of the proposed ministerial meeting on energy efficiency and renewable energy at COP 19 in Warsaw, pointing out how it can reduce barriers to energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment.
  5. Voluntarily report on fossil-fuel subsidies and steps toward reform as part of national communications, biennial reports, and biennial update reports.

This policy brief addresses the importance of fossil-fuel subsidy reform in the context of meeting global climate change mitigation goals, elaborates on the concrete actions Parties can take to progress reform, and describes how efforts under the auspices of the UNFCCC will complement similar work in other international forums.

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This article is part of the series Fossil Fuel Policy Briefs.