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G-20 calls for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies to fight global warming

Sep 26, 2009 - The Associated Press

The Group of 20 major developed and emerging economies called Friday for phasing out "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" as a way of combating global warming following their two-day summit in Pittsburgh.

Leaders of the G-20 countries also agreed to direct their finance ministers to report possible options for financing measures to help developing countries grapple with climate change at the next finance ministers' meeting slated for November in Scotland.

The measure is intended to push forward stalled talks aimed at crafting a new framework to curb global warming at key U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen scheduled for December. The G-20 countries said they will "spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen."

In their joint statement, the G-20 leaders said inefficient fossil fuel subsidies "encourage wasteful consumption, reduce our energy security, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change."

They promised to have their energy and finance ministers develop implementation strategies and time frames for phasing out those subsidies and report back to leaders at the next G-20 summit scheduled for June next year in Canada.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 would reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050 by 10 percent, according to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Energy Agency.

A report by the U.N. Environment Program says about $300 billion in fossil fuel subsidies are paid annually by countries such as Russia and China and that the wealthy, not the poor, benefit the most from such aid.

Environmental group WWF showed disappointment at the lack of specific decisions for financing to address climate change by the G-20 leaders, but indicated appreciation of the accord on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

"If taken seriously, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies can be a major opportunity to shift incentives away from carbon pollution and towards clean energy development both in developed and developing countries," Kim Carstensen, the leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, said in a statement.