EU Sustainable Investment Summit: President von der Leyen calls on global partners to set global standards and support sustainable investment
Tackling the triple interlocking crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and human rights violations is fundamental to ensuring a secure, sustainable and just future. So why are we paying to accelerate these crises, and to impoverish ourselves in the long run? I am talking about harmful subsidies. Not all subsidies are bad, but many are. From fishing to farming to fossil fuels, they are an invisible threat forcing us to fight the planetary emergency with one hand tied behind our back, writes Steve Trent, CEO and Founder, Environmental Justice Foundation.
In the fisheries sector, more than 60% of subsidies are harmful, that is, they are spent on increasing fishing capacity when many fish populations are already overexploited or lost. ‘subject to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. This has huge consequences for people and our planet. In Ghana, for example, the increase in fishing by foreign trawlers has led more than half of those employed in fishing in Ghana’s coastal communities to run out of food in the past year. Even more have seen their incomes drop. There are also implications for the global climate. On the high seas, outside national jurisdictions, fishing vessels are often able to travel much further afield with subsidies, to areas that would otherwise be economically unsustainable. In fact, 43.5% of the “blue carbon” – the carbon stored in marine life – that these ships remove from the ocean comes from these areas. We depend on that same blue carbon if we hope to end the climate crisis, and yet we pay to destroy it.
The World Trade Organization, under the new leadership of Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reaches agreement to end harmful subsidies in fisheries after decades of efforts. It would strengthen human rights around the world, protect wildlife and protect our planet from the climate crisis. Agriculture Almost 90% of global agricultural subsidies are harmful. They fuel climate degradation, the destruction of nature and endemic inequalities, especially for smallholder farmers, who are often women. In 2019, US $ 1 million was spent on agricultural subsidies every minute around the world, of which only 1% was spent on projects that benefit the environment.
The largest subsidies are reserved for the most destructive products, such as beef and milk; the former emits more than twice as much carbon per kilogram of product than any other foodstuff. Agricultural expansion also causes other problems. Land disputes are common, with indigenous peoples and local communities often victims of extreme violence, land grabbing and pesticide poisoning.
It also results in the destruction of invaluable ecosystems, from the forests of Southeast Asia to the Cerrado grasslands of South America, along with the associated extinction of wildlife and even more contributions to global warming. The European Union is currently drafting legislation to keep deforestation products off the shelves of European supermarkets. If robust enough, covering enough ecosystems and commodities, this legislation could be a powerful tool to promote human rights and nature conservation around the world. It would be even stronger if it were accompanied by efforts to redirect harmful agricultural subsidies, at home and abroad, towards sustainable agriculture that benefits both people and the planet.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said of fossil fuel subsidies that “what we are doing is using taxpayer money – which means our money – to stimulate hurricanes, expand them. droughts, melt glaciers, bleach corals. In short – to destroy the world. ” And we are doing it on a large scale. G20 governments spent US $ 584 billion annually between 2017 and 2019 on fossil fuel subsidies, and their support for fossil fuels in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, far from a green recovery, is going into the future. wrong direction by increasing support.
Fossil fuel subsidies exceed 20 times the support given to renewables. From tax breaks for fossil fuel companies to governments paying to clean up the environmental destruction they cause, these grants provide a small handful of companies with artificial support to make more money. while further accelerating the climate crisis. EU officials have rightly identified that these subsidies undermine Europe’s ambitions to reach net zero. The solution is clear and simple: Immediately end all public funding for fossil fuels, redirect the power from government spending to renewables, and ensure the energy transformation we need to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
We have nine years, according to the IPCC, to significantly reduce our carbon emissions so that we have a chance to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. This crisis is a humanitarian crisis, shrouded in a cruel injustice where those who have done the least to cause it are massively suffering its most important and earliest impacts. We cannot afford to keep paying to make the world less secure and more unfair.
The pursuit of subsidies to destructive industries on the planet also locks us into the same business models we need to leave behind, blocking assets and funding that could otherwise be used to start a wave of good, sustainable, green jobs. Harmful subsidies make no environmental, economic or moral sense. To face the planetary emergency and build a safer, more sustainable and fairer world, we must reorient the immense power of public finances for good, turning harmful subsidies into the financial muscle so urgent to bring us to a true zero carbon economy and restore the natural systems that we all ultimately depend on.