Were you part of the “twitterstorm” that took over on June 18th? #EndFossilFuelSubsidies became the 2nd most talked about topic on Twitter, with over 100,000 people speaking out to get the attention of leaders, particularly those at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tweets were also projected onto physical structures in Sydney, London, New Dehli, Rio, and New York. Even Ryan Gosling (see above) and a cat (see below) got in on the fun!
In all seriousness though, the issue is one of extreme importance, a reason why everyone from Mark Ruffalo, taking time out from helping educate about the Robin Hood Tax, to esteemed organizations such as 350.org, the National Resource Defense Council, and the World Wildlife Fund were involved.
Back in 2009, G20 leaders (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chine, European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States) took a progressive step in pledging to phase out fossil fuel subsides, but as of now they mostly have nothing except good intentions to show for it. According to a recent study, fossil fuel subsidies have in fact tripled since then.
In case you were wondering, a fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price revealed by energy producers, or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. This includes things like tax breaks and monetary giveaways from governments. For 2012, it is estimated that there is currently a range of existing subsidies from $775 billion to $1 trillion (the numbers fluctuate due to the governments non-transparency of their transactions).
Through the 100,000 tweets and 1,000,000 signatures on petitions, global citizens demanded the Rio+20 leaders “turn $1 trillion green” by using the money for subsidies to go towards clean energy to reduce climate change and promote economic growth instead.
Last year Exxon Mobile made the most profit of a company ever - $41.6 billion. So, yeah, remind me why are we giving money to the companies that already have more than we’ll ever see in 12 lifetimes again? Obviously we can’t just stop all fossil fuel production and drive electric cars overnight, but it is also obvious this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Long-term, fossil fuels aren’t the answer. We know this, but we still leave the water on when we brush our teeth, still drive our car to go 10 blocks, still have a consciously naïve outlook on our own contributions. Watching The Day After Tomorrow scared me way more than a typical horror film because it’s easy to imagine it actually happening in real life.
The Rio+20 conference meetings run from June 20-22, with over 100 heads of state / government and thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers, and civil society leaders. You can keep up with coverage of the event on the official Rio+20 site (and probably 1,000 other places on Google). Let’s hope they read their Twitter feed.