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Daily Brief: G20 Energy Ministers Fail to Set Deadline to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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July 1, 2016

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G20 Energy Ministers Fail to Set Deadline to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Energy ministers from the world's top economies failed to agree on a deadline to phase out hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. G20 ministers met in Beijing after G7 nations urged all countries to abandon "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 (WaPo). The United States and China have said they will push for a deadline at a September G20 meeting in Hangzhou. Member nations faced lobbying from the United Nations, the European Union, and nongovernmental organizations to establish 2025 or 2020 as a cut-off (Reuters). U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that the United States advocated for a timeline of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies over the next decade or by 2030 (Reuters). A report from the British Overseas Development Institute estimated that G20 economies give about $444 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry annually.


"The G7 joins the leaders of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, who have previously called for an end to assistance for fossil fuel projects. The statement did not define precisely what the G7 consider to be a subsidy. The word 'inefficient' in the G7 text indicates subsidies that distort energy markets. The OECD estimates that this type of support for fossil fuels within its member states is $160-200bn (£109-136bn) each year. But when the cost of damage from pollution and climate change is factored in, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that support increases to a staggering $5.3tn a year, or $10m per minute. This is more than the total global spend on human health," Karl Mathiesen writes for the Guardian.

"Every day, nearly 100 million barrels of oil are used around the world. In 2014, fossil fuels still accounted for 85% of our global energy consumption. But the volatility in oil prices and the devastating impact of carbon dioxide emissions on climate change and pollution have made us rethink our strategy towards greener technologies. The economics of renewables are supporting this dramatic energy transition. In the last five years, solar prices have plunged about 75%, while wind energy has become 25% cheaper. While enough sun falls on the surface of the earth in one hour to power the entire planet for one year, storing energy at night remains a technological challenge," Caroline Connan writes for Bloomberg.

"Subsidizing fossil fuels may make your constituents happy in the short run, but it is wasteful and polluting in the long run. With oil prices at their lowest levels in more than a decade, however, governments worldwide have a huge opportunity. Now is the perfect time to scale back subsidies on fossil fuels," writes Bjorn Lomborg for the Boston Globe.

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Deforestation in the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest absorbs more greenhouse gases than any other tropical forest. CFR's new InfoGuide explores how deforestation in Brazil threatens biodiversity and contributes to climate change.



Vietnamese Government Seeks Damages Over Chemical Spill

The Vietnamese government said on Thursday that a coastal pollution disaster that led to mass fish die-offs and protests across Vietnam was caused by a Taiwan-owned steel factory that discharged chemicals, including cyanide, into the ocean (NYT). The board chairman of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel said the company "would like to take responsibility and apologize to Vietnam."

MONGOLIA: The opposition Mongolian People's Party won 85 percent of the seats in a parliamentary election (Reuters) in a rebuke to the ruling Democratic Party (FT).


World Bank President: India 'Extremely Resilient' to Brexit

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that India had proven to be "extremely resilient" to the shocks of the United Kingdom's vote to exit the European Union (WSJ) and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had "done well" in terms of the country's economic performance. Kim made the remarks during an announcement of $1 billion in World Bank loans to India to develop solar power projects.

CFR's Robert Kahn discusses Brexit's threat to global growth in this blog post.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Afghan refugees could stay in Pakistan until the end of the year (RFE/RL). The statement comes days after an announcement that the government would work with the UN to relocate refugee camps to Afghanistan; Islamabad says militants are hiding in the camps. Pakistan's has the world's second-highest refugee population (Reuters), including at least 1.5 million Afghans.


Four Ministers Resign From UN-Backed Libyan Unity Government

The finance, justice, national reconciliation, and economy ministers of Libya's UN-backed unity government resigned on Thursday (Middle East Eye). The government did not publicize the reason for their resignations; the four ministers were from the country's eastern bloc, where a rival government is based.

IRAN: Iranian businesses are looking to expand trade with Arab nations and to position the country as a conduit to Iraq as conflict there increases the demand for imported goods, according to a new report (FT).


Nigeria Signs $80 Billion in Agreements With China to Upgrade Oil Infrastructure

Nigeria's Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu signed provisional agreements with China this week during a visit to Beijing for Chinese companies to reform its oil and gas infrastructure (FT).

CFR's John Campbell discusses the attacks on Nigeria's oil industry that have led to Angola becoming the continent's largest producer in this blog post.

SOUTH AFRICA: The National Editors Forum called on journalists to picket outside the offices of the South African Broadcasting Corporation in protest over a policy that violence and destruction of property during protests could not be broadcast (BBC).


Austria to Hold Second Presidential Vote After Court Annuls Election

Austria's highest court accepted a challenge to a May vote in which a far-right candidate from the Freedom Party narrowly lost the presidency (BBC). The Freedom Party alleged improper handling of votes; a new election will take place in September or October.  

TURKEY: Police reportedly detained an additional eleven foreigners suspected of being part of an Islamic State cell in Istanbul (Reuters), bringing the number of people arrested in the investigation over the suicide attack on Istanbul's airport to twenty-four.


Obama Urges Venezuelan Government to Respect Recall Process

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking from a summit of North American leaders, called on the Venezuelan government to release political prisoners and to respect the authority of the national assembly and legitimate calls for a recall referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office (El Universal).

PUERTO RICO: U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a bill to install a financial control board in Puerto Rico to oversee $70 billion in debt (Barrons). Puerto Rico is expected to default on a $1.9 billion payment due today (NYT).

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