From Fossil Fuel Subsidies to an Effective Transition


Produced with the support of MAVA foundation

The objective of this project was to investigate why ‘fossil fuel subsidies’ exist, are so sticky and, in some cases, increasing. This despite the cost to governments and continuing pressures from climate activists for their removal. Our findings are based on a combination of analysis of existing data and the practical experiences and opinions shared with us by those with real-world experience of dealing with these questions at the policy level. Our conclusions represent a synthesis of these investigations and conclusions and inferences we have drawn from our inquiry many of which go beyond the narrower questions surrounding fossil fuel subsidies.

There is little doubt that the climate movement has been successful in raising climate change up the political agenda. In both the UK and Germany (the countries of focus of this analysis), and likely in other countries, the challenges lie in:
• navigating the practical, on the ground, country-by-country implementation given the political realities and the different political imperatives, practicalities, trade-offs and compromises necessary in different countries
• improving and maintaining public support for climate-friendly action given other, more immediate and more acutely felt voter concerns as well as voter resistance to the practical implementation of some climate policies
• ensuring that environmental issues are not approached through the narrow lens of ‘environmentalism’ but through an understanding of their interaction with multiple other policy areas

The elimination of fossil fuel subsidies is one of the elements facing these challenges.

However, the challenges apply to most aspects of climate policy. They will likely apply with even more force to other environmental issues such as biodiversity preservation and restoration given that ‘biodiversity’ remains even more of an abstract concept than climate in voters’ minds.

The current energy crisis offers significant opportunities to achieve an energy transition over the medium to long term. Success requires a significant shift in the overarching narrative and supplementing current actions and approaches with significantly more granular and politically workable approaches on a country-by-country basis. Extending the excellent technical and technocratic work that already exists to add approaches that facilitate political pathways to change.

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