Tax payers in EU, Greece paying billions in subsidies for fossil fuels, report claims

Greece is one of five European Union countries – along with Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Slovenia – that is planning to introduce new subsidies for fossil fuels despite scientists’ warnings that the world needs to transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050 in order to control the climate crisis, according to a report unveiled by environmental groups on Tuesday.

Presenting the report, a representative of WWF Greece cited a WWF study showing that Greek tax payers have handed over 15.4 billion euros as direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels over the last decade, when Greece was in the grip of the crisis.

Signed by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Friends of the Earth (FoE) Netherlands and Climate Action Network (CAN), the report on Tuesday revealed that Greece’s National Plan for Energy and Climate envisages subsidies for replacing oil-burning boilers and furnaces with systems using natural gas. The report notes that this will “trap” the country’s buildings into a reliance on natural gas for decades and move it further from the goal of zero-emission buildings, instead of giving priority to energy conservation and other alternatives, such as heat pumps.

Apart from Greece, Poland is also planning subsidies for underground storage of natural gas and use of liquified gas for transportation.

The report said that six EU member-states – Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary, the Netherlands and UK – claim not to give subsidies when the European Commission has revealed that this is not the case.

It also notes that none of the EU member-states, in spite of their commitments, has drawn up a schedule for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and that the UK spends more than any other EU member-state, or roughly 12 billion euros, in tax relief and transfers from the state budget.

It called on all EU member-states to clearly record all subsidies for fossil fuels and include a plan for phasing them out in their national plans on energy and climate, which must be submitted by the end of the year.

“A study by WWF Greece has shown that 15.4 billion euros have been taken from the pockets of Greek tax payers in the last decade and given as direct or indirect subsidies for fossil fuels. The National Plan for Energy and Climate, in its current form, calls for six billion euros in new investments in fossil fuels, without taking into account the exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons and the existing subsidies, that are estimated at over 1.0 billion euros a year.

“It is time for Greek energy policy to align itself with science and incorporate the goal of containing the rise in temperature to 1.5 centrigrade. If we bet on replacing lignite with natural gas, Greece will be trapped for decades in fossil fuels and remain far from any target of eliminating carbon emissions before 2050,” said Stavros Mavrogenis, head of climate and energy policy at WWF Greece.