New analysis of Australia’s Covid-19 economic response has found that Australian governments have funnelled four-times more financial support into the fossil fuel sector, than they have allocated to clean energy.
The analysis, published by the Energy Policy Tracker, estimated that across all G20 countries since the outbreak of Covid-19, that $US151 billion ($A216 billion) of public funds had been poured into the fossil fuel sector.
This was almost twice the amount of financial support that had been provided to the clean energy sector, with the analysis finding that just $US 88.6 billion ($A 127 billion) had been provided towards supporting the growth of renewables, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
Australia was a particularly strong contributor to the fossil fuels, with $US479 million ($A686 million) in financial support provided to the sector since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, compared to just $US122 million ($A174 million) to clean energy projects.
Most of this support has been directed towards the oil and gas industry, which has seen global prices plummet as a result of a dramatic decrease in demand, particularly due to travel restrictions.
This support has not prevented the sector recording significant write-downs in major oil and gas investments, including Woodside Petroleum wiping $6.2 billion off its books, followed by Origin Energy announcing it would cop a $1.2 billion write down due to bad bets on global gas prices.
Only four per cent of the G20 members had placed conditions on the public funding provided to fossil fuel industries that involved targets for reducing emissions or other climate change targets.
United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said that while he welcomed the moves from some countries to align their Covid-19 economic stimulus with the goals of the Paris Agreement, he sought to other countries to integrate climate action into their support packages.
“A growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. But many have still not got the message,” Guterres said.
“New research on G20 recovery packages released this week shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy. Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route.”
The Trump Administration has been by far the largest supporter of the fossil fuel industry since the Covid-19 outbreak began, channelling almost $US 60 billion, which includes substantial measures to prop up the country’s airlines.
The amount of financial support does not include unquantifiable measures that also support the fossil fuel sector, including the wholesale winding back of environmental regulations across the United States.
European countries, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, have led the investment in the clean energy sector, in addition to a massive EU$ 750 billion ($A 1.25 trillion) European Green Deal.
Think tank The Australia Institute contributed to the analysis, completed as a cooperative effort between 14 international organisations, which said that it was disappointing that the Morrison government had not seized the opportunities presented by Covid-19 to use the clean energy sector to drive economic stimulus.
“Australian governments continue to prop up the coal and natural gas sectors with fee waivers, fast-tracked projects and direct investments, further entrenching Australia’s position as the third largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world,” the Australia Institute’s climate and energy director Richie Merzian said.
“It will be disappointing but not surprising if Australia misses the opportunity to lever the economic recovery from COVID-19 to address the climate crisis that only a few months earlier contributed to unprecedented bush fires across the country.”
“Australia is worse than the United States in proportional support for fossil fuels over clean energy and should look to the United Kingdom as an example of how to prioritise the energy systems of the future, versus entrenching those of the past.”