Four countries have already declared climate emergencies, still investing billions in fossil fuels

Canada, the UK, Ireland and France have already declared climate emergencies, alongside investing billions of dollars in fossil fuel industry at home and abroad.

Fossil fuel subsidies can come in the form of tax breaks, financial incentives and support for companies exporting abroad.

The UK, which was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency following declarations by Scotland and Wales, spent an annual average of $11 billion in fossil fuel subsidies between 2015 and 2016, according to data from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

The same data shows that France, which enshrined the climate and ecological emergency as part of draft legislation that could see the country agree to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, spent an average $8.02 billion a year in fossil fuels subsidies during the same period.

For Canada, that figure was $7.73 billion. The government of Justin Trudeau has been accused of sending out mixed signals after approving a pipeline expansion on the day after declaring a national climate emergency.

This data is the latest update from ODI, there is no indication they have been significantly curtailed in the years since. That is despite the UK, France and Canada having pledged to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 as part of commitments made under the G7 in 2016. Governments of the G20 have also agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies a decade ago but no phase-out timeline has yet been agreed.

G20 heads of state are meeting in Osaka, Japan, later this week and coal subsidies could come into discussions with Japan known for funding overseas coal power projects.

There are many definitions for what counts as fossil fuel subsidies. The ODI uses one of the widest definitions, which it says is aligned with the World Trade Organisation’s own guidance.

Jurgelevičius Algirdas, the vice-president of the Eastern European Association of the Greens, points out that the ODI data includes both fiscal support for fossil fuels such as budgetary transfers and tax breaks and public support in the form of grants, loans and guarantees from development finance institutions and export credit agencies.

While the ODI does not hold updated data on Ireland, OECD data shows Ireland’s fiscal support for all fossil fuels reached an annual average of $828 million between 2015 and 2016.

Other studies using different definitions have slightly different findings.

Earlier this year, the European Commission released a report outlining that the UK was the largest provider of fossil fuel subsidies in Europe, handing €11.6 billion in subsidies in 2016. Meanwhile France put €8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies that year.