Press release

Citizens call on leaders to commit to fossil-fuel subsidy reform at Rio+20

June 17, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO—June 18, 2012—Thousands of citizens around the world have called on government leaders to eliminate harmful subsidies in the run-up to Rio+20, a major United Nations conference on sustainable development.

Some 60,000 people from 192 countries cast 1.37 million votes to identify their priorities for a sustainable future. Voting on the economics of sustainable development, the number one recommendation is to "phase out harmful subsidies and develop green tax schemes." On the issue of sustainable energy, the top vote calls for "concrete steps to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies."

"Globally, governments spend at least $1.4 billion a day subsidizing fossil fuels. In a time of economic austerity and environmental crisis, it is clear that governments need to rethink their priorities. Fossil-fuel subsidies are a very good place to start," said Mark Halle, European director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

"The benefits of reforming fossil-fuel subsidies are clear. They are environmentally harmful, socially inequitable and economically draining, these subsidies run counter to the core objectives of sustainable development," Halle said.

However, governments face a number of challenges to eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies. Recent events in Nigeria, where the withdrawal of fuel subsidies sparked public unrest, and significant political barriers to fossil-fuel subsidy reform in countries such as Indonesia and Bolivia, demonstrate the need for a strategic approach to designing and implementing reforms.

IISD's Global Subsidies Initiative—a policy research and advisory group that focuses on subsidies that are detrimental to sustainable development—is convening a session at Rio+20 to examine the political barriers to fossil-fuel subsidy reform.

Breaking Down the Political Barriers to Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform
Date/time: Thursday June 21, 2012, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Location: Room T-5, Rio Centro


  • Moderator: Mark Halle, director, International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • Keynote speaker: Hon. Martin Lindegaard, minister for climate, energy and building, Denmark
  • Majid Al-Suwaidi, deputy director of energy and climate change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates
  • Hans-Peter Egler, head of trade promotion, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Switzerland
  • Fabby Tumiwa, Institute for Essential Services Reform, Indonesia
  • Kerryn Lang, project manager, Global Subsidies Initiative, IISD


For more information, please contact Damon Vis-Dunbar, GSI communications officer at +41 (22) 917-8848, or Nona Pelletier, IISD manager, public affairs at +1 (204) 958-7740 or cell: +1 (204) 962-1303.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.