526 billion reasons for change

Every year, governments from all over the world spend $526 billion to make oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels cheaper to buy. $526 billion! That’s not exactly chump change and, sadly, it’s also four times more than they spend on encouraging renewable energy. Short-sighted much? Kiwis say no.

Hang on a minute. Isn’t there a worldwide imperative to put the brakes on climate change? It’s certainly something New Zealand is committed to and there’s no doubt fossil fuels are major contributors to the rise in global temperatures. So, subsiding the energy that’s producing harmful emissions really doesn’t make sense. Which is why New Zealand has taken a leadership role in calling for the reform of fossil fuel subsidies.


It’s been said that ending subsidies on fossil fuel is the missing piece of the climate change puzzle. Not only would the death of subsidies help keep the global temperature rise beneath two degrees but it would also substantially reduce air pollution. While there is general agreement that things need to change, progress has been slow. Buck up your ideas some of you global governments. You know who you are.

To get things moving New Zealand is proposing a new solution that harnesses global trade rules. Ninety-eight percent of world trade is bound by the rules of the World Trade Organisation, so, if new rules discouraging inefficient fossil fuel subsidies were introduced, almost every country in the world would have to comply.


The odds are stacked against New Zealand. Many countries rely on fossil fuels much more than they do, and change is hard.  Industries and workers associated with fossil fuels often fear job losses and consumers are understandably reluctant to accept higher fuel prices.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. New Zealand has been working behind the scenes to address this issue with the WTO, the G20 and APEC.  Countries, as varied as Morocco, Mexico, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and China, have already made enormous strides in reducing public support for fossil fuels. From 2011 to 2016, Morocco cut its total subsidies for petroleum products by about 80 per cent and Indonesia’s reform of transport fuel subsidies has saved their government about US$15 billion, which has been used for health, education and infrastructure spending. Nice one.


In Māori culture protecting what is precious for future generations is called Kaitiakitanga. It’s a belief that is intrinsic to New Zealanders. They have always taken the lead in worldwide social and environmental issues and this time is no different. Kiwis said no to nuclear energy and their answer is clearly the same when it comes to fossil fuel subsidies.

So, if you believe in trying to change the world for future generations…. We know a place.

Find out more about how New Zealand is pushing for change here.