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Two-faced world spends billions on climate help, fossil fuel

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Russia similarly: they've got more gas than anyone else (at least until all this shale gas comes on line). And if you lived in Norilsk, above the Arctic Circle, you'd be screaming that it should be cheap for Russians in Russia.

The Saudis' excuse for subsidies is obvious and India has a democratic pissing match each election as to who is going to promise ever greater subsidies to farmers. Usually, politicians promise subsidies to farmers for coal-fired electricity, or for diesel to run the irrigation pumps. And so it goes on. In each of these nations, for slightly different reasons, the governments are locked into making energy cheap for the populace.

Iran, it is true, is trying to change this, having just announced various cuts in the subsidies. This is essentially because even the mullahs working their economics out of a seventh century holy book have realised that this is absurd. China has reduced petrol subsidies, and even Russia starts to mutter about letting domestic gas prices rise.

One way of dealing with this is simply to do a Loadsamoney and shout: ”Oi! You! Shut it!” and stop them all being such silly billys. This isn't, however, how international diplomacy works now that Palmerston has retired. So the IEA is saying in this report that if only we could get these subsidies reduced or eliminated then we could reduce the consumption of fossil fuels (pg 7 of the slide show) and thus save 6 or 7 per cent of cumulative CO2 emissions from energy production over the next decade.

I fully expect the newspaper reports to rather gloss over some of these points. Indeed, when an earlier version of this report fell into George Monbiot's hands, he did gloss over them. We'll be told that we have to stop such fossil fuel subsidies: which is really rather odd as “we” don't have any such fossil fuel subsidies to stop, not in the way the IEA count them at least. (Well, OK, a little bit to coal, which is falling now, in Germany)

What we're actually trying to do is stop is Johnny Foreigner whacking out subsidies which entirely negate the tens of billions we ourselves are spending on trying to reduce emissions.

However, much more interesting than using this as an exercise in spotting journamalism (although what fun, eh?) it really does show how climate change has become the big issue, doesn't it? Instead of our suggesting to the governments of Iran, Russia etc that bankrupting themselves with subsidies isn't all that good an idea, they might want to stop doing that, we've got the international organisations having to use the cloak of climate concerns to point out the same blindingly obvious point. ®

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