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SUBSIDY WATCH BLOG

Explore news, commentary and analysis related to subsidies and sustainable development.

Managing the Transition to Sustainable Energy Pricing

Washington—10 October—International experts and senior government officials from ministries of finance and economy gathered on October 10 during the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank to discuss how to manage the transition to sustainable energy pricing.

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Building a Network for Action on Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform, International Civil Society Dialogue

London—1-2 September—Civil society organizations from across the world gathered in London from September 1-2 to discuss $544 billion government spending on consumer fossil-fuel subsidies, and the at least $100 billion on producer fossil-fuel subsidies. Participants discussed the size of subsidies, their reform and the impacts of fossil-fuel subsides on sustainable development.

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A Commentary on the SDGs, Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform and The Future We Want

The most recent draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an outcome from Rio+20 and The Future We Want, now includes international cooperation and potentially financial support towards cleaner fossil-fuel technologies; however, the draft goals no longer recognise the need to phase-out inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies, which stood at $554 billion in 2012 (IEA, 2013). That is four times the level of aid from the OECD DAC in 2013 ($134 billion). This is a step backwards.

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Commentary: Electricity Generation Mixes of the Future: Roles for Nuclear or Renewables? Or Both? Or Neither?

Nuclear power will be the featured energy source in the International Energy Agency’s 2014 World Energy Outlook (WEO).1 To gather input, the IEA convened 100 experts in Paris on 31 March for an informal meeting—“The Future of Nuclear Power”—to help shape the three chapters of the upcoming WEO, which is standard reading for all in the energy policy field. The IEA’s Chief Economist, Fatih Birol, introduced the session noting that the WEO was always objective and does not lobby for any energy source or technology.

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Ministers UAE and Oman Place Spotlight on Low Fossil-Fuel Pricing in the GCC

Low fossil-fuel prices are responsible for wasteful consumption in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said Al Mazroui, Minister of Energy of the United Arab Emirates, and Al Rumhy, Minister of Oil and Gas of Oman at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference on November 10, 2013. Al Mazroui framed the problem as one of setting low energy prices.

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G-20 Leaders Call for Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Peer Review Methodology

The G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg on 5-6 September placed job creation and economic growth at the centre of the debate. The leaders’ declaration at the end of the summit emphasized the need for more transparency and accountability in the search for sound and sustainable economic growth.

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Commentary: The Policy Paradox: Why Parties to the UNFCCC Have to Address Fossil-fuel Subsidies

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) circulated its draft Fifth Assessment Report among peer reviewers last weekend. While the draft revises down the low-end of the range of this century’s projected temperature rise to 2.7°C, most scientists find that greater than 5°C is more likely, given the current trends that could double CO2 concentrations in the coming decades.

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Blog: Renewable energy subsidies and the WTO: The wrong law and the wrong venue

Japan recently announced that consultations had failed to resolve its dispute with Canada over the Province of Ontario’s feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy, and that in mid-June it will be asking the WTO to establish a dispute settlement panel. This is awful news for the multilateral trade system, for which the dispute will be corrosive, seemingly pitting trade against the environment.

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Clarifying misconceptions about taxpayer-subsidized ethanol exports in the United States

Last November, the Financial Times published an article charging that U.S.-produced ethanol is collecting U.S. tax credits before being shipped to Europe, where it also qualifies for favorable tax treatment. I covered this story in "Taxpayer Subsidized Ethanol Exports May Bite Industry in the Future". The gist of my article was that if this charge is true, it completely undermines the supposed reasons U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing ethanol in the first place: to reduce dependence on foreign oil. In fact, as I showed in a later article, any ethanol that is exported actually increases U.S. dependence on foreign oil because it takes some oil to make the ethanol and then ship it to the export market.

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Global food prices and increased biofuel production: an overview of the food vs. fuel debate

From 2006 to 2008, the world saw new price highs for a number of food commodities, with prices for grains like maize rising substantially, despite record crops, and many poor communities no longer able to afford their basic needs. When an internal World Bank report was leaked to the British newspaper The Guardian, worldwide attention turned to the role that biofuels might be playing in the crisis. It argued that increased biofuel production – in many countries, driven by generous subsidy programmes – had resulted in food commodities being diverted for use as biofuel feedstocks, such that food markets were now in direct competition with energy markets. The heated arguments over its findings have come to be known as the ‘food vs. fuel’ debate.

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Blog: A lack of critical debate about India's solar energy subsidies?

This January, Deepak Gupta, the Secretary for India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), reaffirmed plans to install 20 Gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2022, calling it “perhaps the biggest target in the world”. This follows a number of statements made by Dr Kirit S. Parikh, the author of a government-commissioned report last year, recommending that the country “boost” solar power capacity.

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Commentary: Hope on the horizon: Will the G-20 really start the final countdown on unsustainable energy subsidies?

For decades there has existed a community of researchers – spanning government ministries, international organisations, academia and civil society – working to increase the world’s understanding and awareness of harmful subsidies. Since September 2009, when the G-20 committed to phase out and rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that lead to wasteful consumption and distorted long-term energy investments, much attention has turned to the subject. Marking just over a year after this agreement was reached, and in the run-up to the G-20’s Seoul Summit on 11−12 November, Subsidy Watch contacted Professor Cees van Beers and André de Moor, part of the fossil-fuel subsidy research community since the 1990s, and asked for a retrospective: how far have we come and how far have we yet to go?

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