Time to change the game: fossil fuel subsidies and climate | Publication

Two years ahead of a crucial UN climate change summit, global fossil fuel subsidies now top half a trillion dollars. This ODI report argues that it is time to 'change the game' on fossil fuel subsidies.

Brown coal power plant. Flickr, Leszek Kozlowski

What's at stake?

Many of the world’s richest countries continue to pour money into fossil fuel subsidies, with average spending running at $112 per adult. In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20% of households.

This is an expensive business. Fossil fuel subsidies cost over half a trillion dollars globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.

And the negative effects are profound. Fossil fuel subsidies are creating perverse incentives - where investment in carbon-intensive energy is favoured. This presents a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermines attempts to put a price on carbon.

In addition, domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.

Why change the game?

Our report shows how the rules of the game are
biased in favour of dirty energy. We've created a
game to help you find out more. Watch the video
above to see it in action or print your own game
. To start, pick a number...

What can be done?

At the moment, fossil fuel subsidies are increasing. This ODI report calls for bold action to phase out these subsidies by 2020, led by the G20 and with rich countries making the deepest and earliest cut. Phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would support growth that is both inclusive and green.

Download the executive summary or full report now.


Subsidies spending

Subsidies spending infographic

Many countries continue to pour money into fossil fuel subsidies, with average spending across the richest, high-carbon economies running at $112 per adult.



Emissions infographic

By eliminating consumer fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, we could cut greenhouse gases by 360 million tonnes.

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels infographic

For every US$6 spent on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011, only US$1 of support went to renewable energy.


Aid infographic

From 2008 to 2011 the top rich-country emitters invested twice as much in fossil fuel projects via development banks than they did in clean energy projects.

Social costs

Social costs infographic

In 2011, several countries including Venezuela,  Indonesia and Pakistan spent at least twice as much on consumer fossil fuel subsidies as on public health.

Public opinion

Public opinion infographic

In a recent US poll, 59% of respondents supported the elimination of all subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, and 61% supported payment of a carbon tax by fossil fuel companies.