November 11, 2010, in observance of the Federal Veterans Day holiday
Steiner said in an opinion piece published in the Korean JoongAng Daily newspaper, "A year ago in London, G20 leaders articulated this vision as building an 'inclusive, sustainable and green recovery.'" Steiner asks the question, "Could this week in Seoul be a watershed in international financial and economic affairs, where the pledge, made at the G-20 in London, toward a green and more sustainable recovery moves from communique to concrete commitment?"
He said, "An increasing number of banks and pension funds see rising risks to their investments from the loss of ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands, and the multitrillion dollar services they produce. And a rising number now see the disruption to food supplies, supply chains and other challenges linked with natural resource losses as a bigger threat than that from international terrorism. This dramatic shift is in part linked with the findings of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), an assessment requested by the G-8 and developing country environment ministers."
Steiner continued saying, "In terms of combating climate change and restoring fish stocks, canceling or phasing-down global subsidies totaling up to US$700 billion and over US$27 billion a year respectively would be a good start. . . In Seoul, this vision needs to be evolved toward not only a green recovery, but to inclusive, sustainable green growth underpinned by clean technologies and the economic importance of maintaining nature's multitrillion dollar services."
On the subject of fossil fuel subsidies, two NGOs -- Oil Change International and Earth Track -- have released the first independent evaluation of the success of the G20 Pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. The report, G20 Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Phase Out: A review of current gaps and needed changes to achieve success, reveals large gaps in the reporting of subsidies, and that "no new actions have been taken by G20 nations as a result of their commitment in Pittsburgh to phase out fossil fuel subsidies." In Pittsburgh in September 2009, G20 leaders pledged to "rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption."
Last September, for example, President Obama said, "I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history. We are making our government's largest ever investment in renewable energy -- an investment aimed at doubling the generating capacity from wind and other renewable resources in three years. . . Later this week, I will work with my colleagues at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge. . ." [See WIMS 9/22/09].
Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International said, "Each G20 country has defined 'inefficient fossil fuel subsidy' as they like, reported on what they want, and then listed either no subsidies, or things that they had already said they were doing. There is no accountability, no oversight and review, no actual mechanism to hold these leaders to their words. Some of the analysis coming out of the OECD and IEA is quite helpful, but so far, in the process itself, there's just no action behind the words of the G20."
At the launch of the latest edition of the International Energy Agency's (IEA's) annual World Energy Outlook (WEO-2010) in London, Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said, "The Copenhagen Accord and the agreement among G20 countries to phase out subsidies are important steps forward. But, these moves still fall a very long way short of what is required to set us on the path to a truly sustainable energy system. The energy world is facing unprecedented uncertainty. The strength of the economic recovery holds the key to how energy markets will evolve over the next few years. But WEO-2010 demonstrates that it is what governments do, and how that action affects technology, the price of energy services and end-user behavior, that will shape the future of energy in the longer term. We need to use energy more efficiently and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by adopting technologies that leave a much smaller carbon footprint."
Access a release from the UN (click here). Access the complete opinion piece from UNEP's Steiner (click here). Access a release from the NGOs and link to their complete report (click here). Access extensive information and the complete WEO-2010 (click here). Access a release from GRFA (click here). Access the G20 website for more information on the meeting (click here).