Support for fossil fuels almost doubled in 2021, slowing progress toward international climate goals, according to new analysis from OECD and IEA

Source: press release, 29 August 2022

Fossil fuel support by energy product – G20-IEA combined estimates (51 economies: note that the data for 2021 are on a preliminary basis) (sources: OECD Inventory of support measures for fossil fuels, IEA analysis)
Fossil fuel support by energy product – G20-IEA combined estimates (51 economies: note that the data for 2021 are on a preliminary basis) (sources: OECD Inventory of support measures for fossil fuels, IEA analysis)

Major economies sharply increased support for the production and consumption of coal, oil and natural gas, with many countries struggling to balance longstanding pledges to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies with efforts to protect households from surging energy prices, according to analysis released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Energy Agency.

New OECD and IEA data show that overall government support for fossil fuels in 51 countries worldwide almost doubled to USD 697.2 billion in 2021, from USD 362.4 billion in 2020, as energy prices rose with the rebound of the global economy. In addition, consumption subsidies are anticipated to rise even further in 2022 due to higher fuel prices and energy use.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has caused sharp increases in energy prices and undermined energy security. Significant increases in fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption though, while not necessarily reaching low-income households,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann says. “We need to adopt measures which protect consumers from the extreme impacts of shifting market and geopolitical forces in a way that helps keep us on track to carbon neutrality as well as energy security and affordability.”

“Fossil fuel subsidies are a roadblock to a more sustainable future, but the difficulty that governments face in removing them is underscored at times of high and volatile fuel prices. A surge in investment in clean energy technologies and infrastructure is the only lasting solution to today’s global energy crisis and the best way to reduce the exposure of consumers to high fuel costs.” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol says.

The OECD and IEA produce complementary databases that provide estimates of different forms of government support for fossil fuels. The current OECD-IEA combined estimates cover 51 major economies, spanning the OECD, G20 and 33 other major energy producing and consuming economies representing around 85% of the world’s total energy supply.

OECD analysis of budgetary transfers and tax breaks linked to the production and use of coal, oil, gas and other petroleum products in G20 economies showed total fossil fuel support rose to USD 190 billion in 2021 from USD 147 billion in 2020. Support for producers reached levels not previously seen in OECD tracking efforts, at USD 64 billion in 2021 – up by almost 50% year-on-year, and 17% above 2019 levels. Those subsidies have partly offset producer losses from domestic price controls as global energy prices surged in late 2021. The estimate of consumer support reached USD 115 billion, up from USD 93 billion in 2020.

The IEA produces estimates of fossil fuel subsidies by comparing prices on international markets and prices paid by domestic consumers that are kept artificially low using measures like direct price regulation, pricing formulas, border controls or taxes, and domestic purchase or supply mandates. Covering 42 economies, the IEA finds that consumer support increased to USD 531 billion in 2021, more than triple their 2020 level, driven by the surge in energy prices.

The OECD and IEA have consistently called for the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel support and re-direction of public funding toward the development of low-carbon alternatives alongside improvements in energy security and energy efficiency. Subsidies intended to support low-income households often tend to favour wealthier households that use more fuel and energy and should therefore be replaced with more targeted forms of support.

Note: The OECD G20-IEA combined estimates covers 51 economies, representing the total resulting from merging IEA price-gap estimates and OECD G20 Inventory estimates. These are the following: Australia, Brazil, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russian Federation, Republic of Türkiye, United States, South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Trinidad And Tobago, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam. Data are expressed in constant 2021 US dollars.