International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Renewable energy (1 hits),

Full Submission

Joint Submission to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20:
A pledge to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies

This submission proposes that, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development on June 4-6, 2012, countries adopt a pledge to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies and provide the necessary technical and financial support to assist developing countries reform their subsidies.

Fossil-fuel subsidy reform has become an international priority. Already, 53 countries in the G-20 and APEC forums have committed to phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies over the medium term. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, is an opportunity to expand that commitment, and to broaden the pledge beyond the G-20 and APEC countries.

From a sustainable development perspective there is a strong argument for reforming fossil-fuel subsidies. If the goal of sustainable development is the balancing of economic, environmental and social considerations, then fossil-fuel subsidy reform delivers on all three fronts:

1. Fossil-fuel subsidies are costly. Global fossil-fuel consumption subsidies amounted to US$409 billion in 2010 (International Energy Agency (IEA), 2011). In addition, the OECD estimates that subsidies for fossil-fuel production and consumption in its member countries cost US$45-75 billion annually (OECD, 2011). Globally, producer subsidies are estimated by the GSI to be at least US$100 billion annually (GSI, 2010).

2. Phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies would reduce growth in global energy demand by 4.1% and carbon dioxide emissions by 4.7% by 2020 (IEA, 2011). Fossil-fuel subsidies create incentives for higher levels of consumption, which in turn produce more local and global pollutants on behalf of both industry and consumers.

3. Fossil-fuel subsidies are socially regressive; the IEA estimates that only 8% of the US$409 billion spent subsidizing fossil-fuel consumption went to the poorest 20% of the population. While fossil-fuel subsidies are often designed for the interests of poorer populations, they typically benefit medium- to high-income households or lead to diversion. Subsidy reform should be complemented with measures to protect poor and vulnerable groups in society.

The G-20 and APEC commitments have helped to raise the political importance of subsidy reform and have led to increased international activity on the issue. Building on that foundation, we encourage United Nations Member States to use Rio+20 to widen the country coverage of the reform commitments and endorse a comprehensive strategy for fossil-fuel subsidy reform, including technical and financial assistance for developing countries.

By adopting a pledge to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies at Rio+20, Member States would show their commitment to an important means to achieving sustainable development. The pledge could also be expanded to include subsidies to other energy sources, such as nuclear, for greater impact.

The undersigned organisations propose that countries adopt the follow pledge:


1. Phase out fossil-fuel subsidies that undermine sustainable development.

2. Assist developing countries to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies that undermine sustainable development. IN ADDITION, COUNTRIES PLEDGE TO PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING SUPPORTING MEASURES:

1. Reporting and Review Countries commit to annual reporting of:

a. Prices they charge each consumer group for each energy product. These reports should be delivered to an international organisation such as the IEA, a UN agency or another organisation experienced in collecting data.

b. Subsidies they grant to fossil-fuel consumers and producers. Existing reporting mechanisms, such as the World Trade Organization?s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) or UNFCCC National Communications, are recommended for this process. More specific formats for reporting could also be used, such as those developed by the IEA (energy consumers) and OECD (energy producers and consumers).

c. Subsidy reform, detailing the subsidies under reform, progress towards reform and the expected outcomes. Countries should review progress against the commitment annually, using a peer review process or delegating to a third party such as an international organisation. All reports and reviews should be made public. Databases of energy prices, subsidies and subsidy reform should be developed and maintained.

2. Technical and financial assistance for developing countries

Technical and financial assistance may be needed to help governments improve their reporting of subsidies or to assist industries or consumers transition away from fossil-fuel subsidies. For example, assistance may be needed to establish a transparent pricing mechanism, design social safety nets (such as a cash transfer), finance cash transfers or restructure investment incentives. Technical and financial assistance can be provided directly or through organisations such as intergovernmental organisations and development banks.

3. Common research and analysis

While country-specific considerations are important, common problems are faced across the world, and solutions in one country can have generic application in many others. Setting up a common research and analysis program to support the Pledge initiative is proposed.

4. Secretariat support

Countries will investigate options for providing Secretariat support to countries. This is likely to include meetings of officials and expert groups to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices This proposal is submitted on behalf of:

IISD?s Global Subsidies Initiative Mats Hellstrom, GSI high-level advisor, formerly Sweden?s Ambassador to Germany, Sweden?s Minister for Foreign Trade (1983-86) and Minister for Agriculture (1986-91).

Greenpeace International Patricia Lerner, Senior Political Advisor Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

WWF International Stephan Singer, Director Global Energy Policy 168 Avenue de Tervurenlaan, Box 20, 1150 Brussels, Belgium

Green Budget Europe Anslem Görres, President Schwedenstraße 15a, 13357 Berlin, Germany

Pew Charitable Trusts Susan Lieberman, Deputy Director 901 E Street, N.W.,Washington, DC 20004 USA

European Institute for Sustainable Transport (EURIST) Jürgen Perschon, Executive Director Weidenbaumsweg 13-15, 21029 Hamburg, Germany

Natural Resources Defense Council Jacob Scherr, Director of Global Strategy and Advocacy 1152 15th Street, NW, #300, Washington, DC 20005, USA (for communications)

Ethical Markets Media Hazel Henderson, President PO Box 5190, St. Augustine, FL 32085, USA

Carbon War Room Jigar Shah, CEO

Bellona Foundation, Norway Svend Søyland, International Adviser Nordregate 2, Oslo, Norway

Oil Change International Steve Kretzman, Director 236 Massachusetts Ave NE #203, Washington, DC 20002, USA

HELIO International Hélène Connor, Chairman 56, rue de Passy, 75016 Paris, France helio@helio-international.orgWORKING

GSI is an initiative of the International Institute for Sustainable Development Deutsche Naturschutzring ? German League for Nature and Environment Helga Inden-Heinrich, Deputy Managing Director Koblenzer Straße 65, D - 53173 Bonn, Germany

Institute for Essential Services Reform, Indonesia Fabby Tumiwa, Director Mampang Prapatan VIII (Buncit IV), Kompleks Bappenas No. R.13, Jakarta, Indonesia, 12790

National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada James Clancy, President or Karen Hawley, National Representative (for communications) 15 Auriga Drive, Nepean, ON K2E 1B7, Canada

Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA), Canada Patrick Bonin, Director climate-energy 484, route 277 I Saint-Léon-de-Standon I (QC) G0R 4L0, Canada

HealthBridge, Canada Sian FitzGerald, Executive Director 1 Nicholas Street, Suite 1004, Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7, Canada Tanzania Renewable energy Association (TAREA) Matthew J. Matimbwi, Executive Secretary P.O. Box 32643 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Transparency and Economic Development Initiatives (TEDI), Nigeria Elder Ogazi Emeka, Executive Director Abakaliki Express Road Abakaliki Ebonyi State Nigeria

Guru Arjan Institute of Development Studies, India Gursharan Singh Kaith, Director 14-Preet Avenue, Majitha Road, PO Naushera, Amritsar 143008, India

Fundació ENT, Spain Ignasi Puig-Ventosa, Head of Projects C/Sant Joan, 39, 1r Vilanova i la Geltrú, 08800 Barcelona, Spain

Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF), USA Medani P. Bhandari, Scientist 658 West Onondaga Street, Syracuse, NY 13204-3711, USA

International Institute for Monetary Transformation Frans C. Verhagen, President 97-37 63rd Rd. #15E, Rego Park, New York 11374-1625, USA

Energy Transition Blog Rick Bosman, Founder and Chief Editor
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