Frankie the Dino coming with the strong message to share; "Don't Choose Extinction." Credit: UNDP

“Don’t Choose Extinction”

A new campaign has been launched in line with the ongoing COP26 in Glasgow to raise awareness against continued negative fossil fuel subsidies

“Don’t Choose Extinction” presented by Frankie the Dino has been launched by United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) in parallel to the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 seen as a make-or-break event following the climate urgency. He comes to visit the UN General Assembly urging world leaders to shift away from fossil fuel subsidies and “don’t choose extinction”.

Led by a cast of celebrity voices from around the world, the 2.30-minute Don’t Choose Extinction campaign aims to raise public awareness of how fossil fuel subsidies are cancelling out significant progress to date towards ending climate change and are driving inequality by benefitting the rich.

According to UNDP, the main contributor to the climate emergency is the energy sector which accounts for 73 per cent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. However, the world still spends up to US$423 billion annually to subsidize fossil fuels for consumers, be they oil, the electricity that is generated by the burning of other fossil fuels, gas, and coal.

As found in the latest analysis released alongside the campaign by the agency, this is four times the amount needed to help poor countries tackle the climate crisis, one of the sticking points ahead of the COP26 global climate conference next week.

The amount spent directly on these subsidies could pay for COVID-19 vaccinations for every person in the world, or pay for three times the annual amount needed to eradicate global extreme poverty. When indirect costs, including costs to the environment, are factored into these subsidies, the figure rises to almost US$6 trillion, according to data published recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the agency cited.

Instead, these funds, which are paid for by taxpayers just end up deepening inequality and impeding action on climate change, the UN development agency noted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed outdated aspects of the global economy. It includes the fact that the world continues to spend billions of dollars on fossil fuel subsidies, while hundreds of millions of people live in poverty and the climate crisis accelerates. Against this backdrop, we must ask ourselves: is subsidizing fossil fuels a rational use of public money?” said Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. 

According to the IMF as cited, fossil fuel subsidies are both inefficient and inequitable. Across developing countries, about half of the amount of public resources spent to support fossil fuel consumption benefits the richest 20 per cent of the population.

“Addressing fossil fuel subsidies is a politically charged issue, but the facts show that reform is both necessary, and when done correctly, supports the poor, creates jobs, and protects the planet,” said Mr. George Gray Molina, Lead Economist of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support and co-author of the analysis. “We hope this research will catalyze the conversation on the critical role reform can have in driving green and fair transitions in all countries.”

The UNDP decided to produce the report following a growing recognition of the need for reform of fossil fuel subsidies by economists and policymakers as well as the IMF and World Bank. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has also made a strong call for reform, the organization noted.

“When we consider how we are going to pay for the fight against climate change, fossil fuel subsidies mean that we are effectively starting at a point of minus US 423 billion dollars,” added Mr. Achim Steiner. “Reform is not easy and the transition to clean energy presents a range of difficult challenges in many countries. Indeed, each country needs to take their own path. But we also know that we must move away from these energy sources that are contributing to our planet’s decline.”

As for Thailand, it has set out the targets to reduce GHG emissions between 20-25% by 2030. In recent years, it has also updated its energy policies to transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. The UN development agency noted that if successfully implemented, these policies would contribute to significant savings allowing potential increased investments in alternative and renewable energy solutions.  

“Fossil fuel subsidy reforms would contribute to reducing CO2 emissions and benefit human health and well-being, and they are a first step towards correctly pricing energy, one that reflects the ‘true and full cost of using fossil fuels to society and the environment,” the agency pointed.