What is the Real Price for that Petrol Fill-Up?

If there were any lingering doubts about the danger of continuing the addiction to fossil fuels, the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico must surely be crushing them. The oil spill, fouling an ocean and threatening the prosperity of millions, has been accurately described as the greatest environmental disaster in US history. Moreover, the BP Gulf catastrophe is not an anomaly for offshore drilling.  Oil spills occur throughout the world.  In fact, more oil is spilled each year from the offshore oil fields of Nigeria than has been spilled to date from the Deepwater drilling disaster. Because of its role as the primary global transportation fuel along with many other uses, oil is responsible for a major share of greenhouse gas emissions.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a major signal that a strong climate deal is imperative. If no global climate agreement is achieved, then the consequences are clear to scientists: temperatures will increase beyond the threshold needed for catastrophic climate change.  Furthermore, effects from climate change are already being felt everywhere.  Just last week, hundreds died in India and Pakistan during a terrible heat wave, with temperatures shooting up as high as 50o C (122o F).   These developments are bitterly ironic because alternative energy sources do exist, but there 
remains a lack of sufficient investment in clean energy.  The International Energy Agency calculates the cost of not taking on clean energy opportunities at $500 billion a year, yet today the world economy spends over $550 billion a year on fossil-fuel subsidies.  It is hardly logical to subsidize resources that cost us money while simultaneously 
destroying the environment. How can this continue given the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf Coast as well as all the other examples of the environmental damage from fossil fuels?  In a recent poll the majority of the US public are now against offshore drilling, and President Obama is using the oil spill as motivation for climate change and energy legislation.  Checking climate change and sustaining economic growth, however, depends upon an international agreement to invest in clean energy and adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change. Moving beyond fossil fuels is a project of major proportions and will take a consistent effort over many years with growing effort and resources.  Finance is a critical piece and will form the foundation for the building blocks that negotiators are working on here in Bonn. Looking ahead to G8/G20 meetings later this month, finance for clean energy is high on the agenda.  Heads of State will discuss new sources of finance and the possibility of switching off the subsidies from fossil fuels and redirecting their revenue to clean energy investments. Both of these initiatives would fuel the low-carbon race among countries and lay the foundation for a breakthrough agreement in Cancun, and over the longer run spark an economic renaissance for the world as well as the climate that sustains our economy.  That is why it is so necessary here in Bonn to make progress on finalizing technical issues so that Cancun can be launch pad for an internationally binding deal. The image of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico haunts the climate talks, and we hope it’s haunting the Obama administration. The gushing greenhouse gas emisions are less visible, but the source of both problems is the same: our addiction to fossil fuels. The benefits of harm reduction by moving away from oil will be great for the climate, nature and the economy alike.

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