July 15, 2020

Dharini Parthasarathy, Climate Action Network International, dparthasarathy [at]
Collin Rees, Oil Change International, collin [at]

Campaigners: G20 financial and political support for fossil fuels rises amidst COVID-19 crisis

Campaigners from around the world condemn expansion of fossil fuel projects as data shows twice as much public money goes to fossil fuels than to clean energy in economic recovery packages by 20 richest countries

Grassroots campaigners at a press briefing yesterday by Climate Action Network International, organized with Oil Change International,, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and the Global Gas & Oil Network said political leaders of the richest countries are squandering this ‘moment of reckoning’ by failing to ensure a just and sustainable recovery from this crisis.

New data from the Energy Policy Tracker shows that the world’s 20 richest countries, who together account for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have committed more than USD 150 billion of public money to support fossil fuels since the start of the COVID-19 crisis this year.

The continued expansion and public funding for fossil fuels in the next months is not only a disaster for the climate but is increasing poverty and inequality, harming Indigenous Peoples and communities of color and driving species-extinction, deforestation and displacement.

As the world grapples with a health emergency, a looming economic recession and the climate crisis, finance ministers of the G20, who are meeting this weekend, must lead by action — not just words — and use this year to drastically change the course of the global economy away from this dangerous dependence on fossil fuels towards investments that are in line with ambitious and updated climate targets

Quotes from the speakers and other campaign groups:

“The COVID-19 crisis and governments’ responses to it are intensifying the trends that existed before the pandemic struck. National and subnational jurisdictions that heavily subsidized the production and consumption of fossil fuels in previous years have once again thrown lifelines to oil, gas, coal, and fossil fuel-powered electricity. Meanwhile, economies that had already begun a transition to clean energy are now using stimulus and recovery packages to make this happen even faster,” said Dr. Ivetta Gerasimchuk, IISD expert and Energy Policy Tracker project lead.

“The EU is throwing fuel on the fire while presenting itself as a champion of climate action and human rights. It is pumping billions of euros of public money and political support into dangerous projects like the EastMed-Poseidon pipeline, which would transport gas from between Israel and Cyprus, via Greece, to Italy. This would exacerbate geopolitical tensions, strengthen oppressive regimes, destroy the local environments and communities’ livelihoods, and of course be a climate disaster. Over 50 organizations from along the route of the pipeline demand that the EU stop spending a penny more on the Eastmed-Poseidon and that public money is spent on just and renewable energy solutions instead,” said Naomi Kreitman, Gastivists Network.

The fossil fuel industry is ravaging the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique, including financiers and transnational corporations from many of the G20 countries. The gas rush has already been fueling human rights abuses, poverty, militarization, corruption, violence, social injustice and environmental destruction. In addition, climate science shows us clearly that gas cannot be an option for the future of our planet. The climate crisis will have severe consequences for Mozambique, such as the two catastrophic cyclones which hit us in 2019. Stop the gas exploitation in Mozambique now!” said Daniel Ribeiro, Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), Mozambique.

“The recent announcement of auctions in 41 coal blocks in India — part of a slew of new policies to revive the Indian economy — pose a serious threat to our communities and the global fight against climate change. The expansion of coal through commercial mining means increased land grabs, deforestation and displacement of Indigenous People. The displacement of forest and rural communities during this coronavirus pandemic threatens not only the loss of our livelihoods, land, culture and identity but also exposes tribal communities, who have been protected in the forests, to the coronavirus now ravaging towns and cities, where many will be forced to migrate,” said Ashish Birulee, co-founder, Adivasi Lives Matter, Indigenous People’s Movement, India.

Gulf Coast communities in the USA are mobilizing to stop the construction of three fracked gas export terminals that would unleash climate-polluting emissions, destroy sacred Indigenous lands, and threaten marginalized people’s health and safety. This proposed expansion would also increase oil and gas drilling in West Texas’ Permian Basin, forcing the region to become a fossil fuel extraction colony for overseas markets. Years of public opposition, divestment campaigns targeting banks, and legal action have delayed the fracked gas export projects until next year, and we will not stop fighting until these projects are canceled for good,” said Bekah Hinojosa, Gulf Coast Campaign Representative, Sierra Club, United States.

“Despite being a country extremely vulnerable to climate impacts, Bangladesh is on track to build 29 coal plants with a total capacity of 33,200 MW. Chinese investments represent the majority of the proposed coal power capacity — 18,000 MW across 15 projects. The UK- and Japan-based companies are involved in three proposed coal projects each. We urge rich G20 countries to cease supporting coal and invest instead in renewable energy that will allow Bangladesh to establish itself as a low-emission country, to protect our people and our future from the effects of the climate crisis,” said Sohanur Rahman, Fridays for Future Bangladesh, Bangladesh.

“After the horrific summer of climate impacts we had in Australia — bushfires burning 19 million hectares, killing 34 people and one billion animals, and forcing communities to flee to beaches to shelter as their towns burned — you would think the Australian Government would prioritize climate action in all of its planning. Sadly for our community, the government led by Prime Minister Morrison is instead talking up a ‘gas-fired COVID recovery’ and planning to prop up the coal and gas industries, despite a renewables-led COVID recovery generating three times as many jobs. Australians — individuals and businesses — are investing in the other direction, showing strong support for renewables, and it is time our government did too,” said Julie-Anne Richards, Executive Director Climate Action Network Australia, Australia.

“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to bequeath to them a planet worth inheriting. In this fight, giving up is not an option, losing hope is unthinkable but sitting back and watching the chaos unfold while we do nothing is the greatest evil. That is why we have to do everything in our capacity to stop the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline that threatens the livelihoods of millions of people and will also be disastrous for our environment and natural resources. Our Environment is our Future and our Future is our Responsibility,” said Joseph Masembe, Little Hands Go Green, Uganda.

“The governments of Latin America will be throwing money away if they continue to support the fossil fuel industry through credit, subsidies or bailouts. In countries such as Argentina and Mexico, fostering community-led, renewable energy will clearly result in better outcomes for the economy, the climate and the most vulnerable communities. In the last few months, we have seen huge oil spills in rivers of Ecuador and coastal areas of Brazil, which harmed thousands of Indigenous and fishers. Choosing between such a dirty sector and industries that will create clean jobs amid a recession should be a no-brainer,” said Ilan Zugman, Interim Latin America Director,, Brazil.

At this point in history it’s clear that investing in fossil fuels is as lethal to global economies as it is to life on earth. Yet G20 leaders keep lying to themselves and their citizens as they prop up coal, oil and gas with public money in the name of private financial return. In the height of hypocrisy, Canada — co-chair of the Powering Past Coal Alliance — is quietly moving to expand the Vista mine, making it one of North America’s largest thermal coal mines. Canada’s claims to international leadership are hollow as long as its national and subnational governments funnel money to polluting projects like Vista and the Trans Mountain and Coastal Gaslink pipelines. COVID-19 has revealed two truths that Canada and G20 leaders must heed: one, if we don’t kill pollution, it will kill us; and two, a healthier world is possible — we need to only choose to build it,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada, Canada.

Listen to a recording of the press briefing

View slides from the presentation


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