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G20 leaders fail to agree on timeline to phase out health-harming fossil fuel subsidies

During this week’s summit, the G20 failed to agree on a timeline to phase out inefficient health-harming fossil fuel subsidies, missing an opportunity to prevent ill health and meet the Paris climate goals.

At this week’s G20 summit in China, the leaders had the chance to do something big for public health prevention – by initiating crucial steps to end one of the main causes of outdoor air pollution: the use of fossil fuels and public money to subsidise them.



According to the Overseas Development Institute, G20 continues to spend on average $444 billion a year supporting fossil fuel production alone. The figures would be much higher if the unpriced harm these fuels are causing to health and environment is factored in.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in four people worldwide die every year as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment with air pollution being the single most important environmental risk factor. Air pollution is a huge burden to health systems and costs Europe up to 62.3 billion euros in just one year.

Génon K Jensen, Executive Director of the Health & Environment Alliance points out what this means for the health of people all over Europe,

“By discussing the importance of green finance and of ending fossil fuel subsidies, this year’s G20 is showing signs of taking the threat of air pollution from fossil fuels seriously, but urgent action is lacking. In Europe, air pollution from coal power plants was responsible for 22,900 premature deaths, 11,800 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 21,000 hospital admissions in 2013 alone.”

Ms. Jensen concludes: “Germany as the host of the next G20 summit needs to go further in accelerating a phase-out of harmful fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.”

Originally posted on 7 September 2016

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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