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Still Digging: G20 Governments Continue to Finance the Climate Crisis

Craig Zelizer

May 29, 2020

Crossposted from Oil Change International

Oil Change International & Friends of the Earth U.S.

For organizational endorsements, see list below.

May 2020


With the health and livelihoods of billions at risk from COVID-19, governments around the world are preparing public finance packages of a magnitude they previously deemed unthinkable. This report shows that without a dramatic departure from recent trends, these recovery packages are likely to spur another crisis. We find that since the Paris Agreement, G20 countries have acted directly counter to it by providing at least USD 77 billion a year in finance for oil, gas, and coal projects through their public finance institutions. If we are to limit warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst of the climate crisis, we cannot afford to finance new fossil fuel projects.

Summarizing public finance flows for energy from bilateral G20 public finance institutions and multilateral development banks (MDBs) in the post-Paris period, this report compares figures from 2016 to 2018 to those from 2013 to 2015, which were originally published in our 2017 report Talk is Cheap. The report reveals that support for fossil fuels has not dropped since the Paris Agreement was made, with annual average support for coal from G20 countries increasing by $1.3 billion per year, and support for oil and gas staying steady at $64 billion a year, far from aligning their financing with what is necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C. Additionally, China, Japan, Canada, and South Korea were the largest providers of public finance to oil, gas, and coal with over two thirds of fossil fuel support from 2016 to 2018.

As governments prepare stimulus responses to COVID-19, G20 governments should direct the public’s money away from fossil fuels and toward climate solutions that will protect jobs and build a more resilient economy. In line with their relative wealth and historic responsibility, G20 governments must:

  • Support a global just recovery to COVID-19 which carves a path to resilient, equitable, and zero-carbon societies instead of further locking in fossil fuel production and use. Recovery packages in response to COVID-19 must bail out workers and communities, not banks and polluting corporations. They must ensure a globally just outcome by prioritizing debt-free finance to the lowest-income countries and communities.
  • End all public finance for oil, gas, and coal projects after 2020. G20 governments should adopt explicit commitments both domestically and internationally to end financing for fossil fuels. This phase-out should include ending all support for fossil fuel exploration, extraction, transportation, and power plants.
  • Rapidly scale up investment in clean energy, energy efficiency, just transition plans, and energy access. G20 governments must align all lending and operations with a high-probability and equitable 1.5°C pathway by the end of 2020. In particular, this must include support for the implementation of just transition plans developed with workers and communities who are dependent on fossil fuels.
  • Ensure transparent and timely reporting on all energy finance. G20 governments should require all public institutions to provide timely accounting of the full life-cycle emissions of the projects they support. This information allows affected communities and organizations to provide input, have a clear understanding of which projects G20 governments are involved in, and monitor the implementation of those projects.

Click to download the full report.

Read the blog post, “Why $77 billion a year in public finance for oil, gas, and coal is even worse than it sounds” here.


Endorsed by: 350.org, World Wildlife Fund, Transnational Institute, Centre for Financial Accountability, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, Les Amis de la Terre, JA! Justica Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), Solutions for Our Climate, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, Re:Common, VedvarendeEnergi, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Both ENDS, Friends of the Earth Japan, Common-Wealth, Gastivists, Above Ground, Legambiente, Stand.earth, Rainforest Action Network, Christian Aid, Big Shift Global, CEE Bankwatch Network, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Environmental Defence Canada, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Climate Action Network Canada, Équiterre, Ecodefense Russia, and Urgewald. 


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