The Hidden Price Tags of fossil fuel subsidies

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In July 2017, HEAL launched the report Hidden Price Tags: How ending fossil fuel subsidies would benefit our health, providing the first-ever comparison of fossil fuel subsidies and the costs to health associated with air pollution from fossil fuels.

Burning fossil fuels causes deadly air pollution and climate change. Yet virtually all governments spend huge amounts of public money – their citizens’ taxes – on supporting the oil, gas and coal industry in fossil fuel energy production. Despite nearly a decade-old commitment to end such financial support, the report reveals that on average in G20 countries, the health costs associated with fossil fuels are over six times higher than the subsidies: 2,758 billion USD vs 444 billion USD (2,600 billion Euro vs 416 billion Euro).

Read our 2017 report: Hidden pice tags - How ending fossil fuel subsidies would benefit our health


- Full report - Hidden Price Tags - EN - TR - PL - DE

- Press release - EN - DE - PL

- Info-graphics, visuals, quote cards and sample tweets are here

- Q&A about fossil fuel subsidies and their meaning for health - EN - TR

- Additional sources here

Partners and supporters of this report include:

What is this campaign about?

Fossil fuel subsidies cause pollution, provoke premature deaths, spread disease and endanger the climate. HEAL’s new campaign, Choose Health – End Fossil Fuels Subsidies aims to shed light on the public health opportunity that a full phase out of fossil fuel subsidies and a subsequent end of the fossil fuels era would present.

The campaign builds on the knowledge that fossil fuels such as coal largely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and air pollution which harms health.

It aims to raise awareness especially among the health and medical community and to build momentum for the phase out of fossil fuels subsidies.

HEAL has a strong track record in bringing evidence and knowledge about climate change and health to the forefront of deliberations at EU and international level and is determined to use this expertise to help end the use of fossil fuel subsidies in the European region.

What do we want?

HEAL is calling on governments to stop providing public funds to one of the world’s most polluting industries and to make the full transition to renewables, protecting our health and preventing rapid climate change.

Background information:

Subsidies make fossil fuels such as coal cheaper, encouraging their use and increasing the harmful pollution toll to the environment and human health. Negative effects include premature death, heart and lung disease, respiratory problems such as asthma and harm to the vulnerable groups such as unborn babies and children.

These subsidies represent extremely high government support to coal, oil and gas, taking place in many countries worldwide. This support comes in the form of direct investments or tax exemptions to producers, but also by not incorporating the damage fossil fuels cause to the climate and our health in pricing decisions.

Besides them being harmful, subsidies are also expensive for governments and consequently for taxpayers, locking in funds that could be used for public infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently estimated the “true costs” of government subsidies to the industry at $5.3 USD per year. This is more than the total health spending of all governments worldwide (2).

To support this campaign, HEAL will be working on the publication of the first ever report on fossil fuel subsidies and health, which will compare coal subsidies with public health spending and support for renewables in a set of target countries.


Should you wish to find out more about the campaign, please contact Vijoleta Gordeljevic at


In 2007, HEAL published a briefing reviewing the latest scientific evidence on climate and health from the IPCC. This laid the basis for building policy recommendations, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable groups and considering win-win scenarios for public health through climate mitigation measures. HEAL works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and helped facilitate World Health Day on climate change in 2008. Since then, many medical groups, citizens and policy-makers have advocated for health at the centre of climate change mitigation. Public awareness was increased in 2010 with a ground-breaking HEAL – HCWH report on a 30% reduction target for EU climate policy. HEAL’s Unpaid Health Bill - How coal power plants make us sick marked the beginning of a coal and health campaign in 2013 in which HEAL works closely with medical, health and climate advocacy groups, especially in countries where coal is a particular threat to health. Since its successful launch at EU level, the Unpaid Health Bill has been launched in Germany, Poland, Romania, Turkey and the Western Balkans.

The Briefing on fossil fuel subsidies and health is also available in Turkish (English - Turkish) and so is the Q&A overview on fossil fuel subsidies and their consequences on climate and health (English - Turkish).

About HEAL

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 »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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Press: Elke Zander

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