Money is available!
Das Geld fehlt nicht!
Whether nationally or globally: the numbers are so shockingly high, it's hard to imagine. Nine billion euros, for instance, is annually granted to German industry for electricity costs. Worldwide, subsidies are estimated at a whopping one trillion US dollars – subsidies that actually harm the climate, the people and the environment, instead of helping. When governments declare that they have no money for urgent investment into a social and ecological economy, this is more than hypocritical.
The money is there – it is just being given to the wrong people for the wrong things. For example, the millionaire-family Vidal from Spain use illegal fishing practices to empty our oceans, yet at the same time they pocket € 12.5 million in EU fisheries subsidies. Or how about the rich producers and users of fossil fuels, who, with an estimated $ 750 billion per year, collect the lion's share of harmful subsidies worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, only eight percent of fossil fuel subsidies reach the poor.
There is another way. Costa Rica has introduced a tax on oil, whilst reducing and redeploying its fossil fuel subsidies. Ethiopia has abolished subsidies for fossil fuels – and thereby reduced the import of kerosene (with a positive impact on the public purse). Why is it then that not more countries follow these models? The answer is easy to give and hard to overcome: It's a question of power. Fishing and oil barons have undue influence over our governments. So they manage to defend their privileges and shift the social and environmental costs of their actions onto the community.
The overall social and environmental costs of electricity from lignite and coal-fired power plants, for example, add up to 15.6 and 14.8 cents per kilowatt hour respectively. For nuclear energy it's even more – at least 16.4 cents per kilowatt hour are due. Yet for one kilowatt hour of wind power, the accrued costs are just 8.1 cents. Nonetheless, it suits the powerful energy companies to ensure that the discussion amongst leaders and in the tabloid press is limited solely to the supposedly "expensive" green energy, whilst they gloss over the fact that the true costs of electricity are not paid for by the companies, but by all of us.
Besides transparency, clear policy objectives (such as an elimination of harmful subsidies by 2020) and a tax system in which social and environmental "bads" are charged adequately, one thing is needed above all: In order to change the current subsidy and tax policy, the power of the large polluter-companies must be broken.
Who is being supported to do what is a question for democracy. Only when the people, not the industry lobby, determine the actions of our rulers, will the billions that flow today into the destruction of our future, finally fund poverty reduction and environmental protection.
Daniel Mittler, Political Director of Greenpeace International