How can world leaders at the Rio+20 Earth Summit next week show that they are serious about sustainable development and environmental protection? The answer is simple: end fossil fuel subsidies.
Every year, governments around the world give nearly $1 trillion dollars of public money to the fossil fuel industry. Three years ago, the G20 committed to phase-out these handouts to coal, oil and gas companies, but they haven't taken any action since.
Now is the perfect time. This June 18, finance ministers and heads of state from G20 countries will come together in Los Cabos, Mexico. Three days later, more than 100 presidents and prime ministers will join over 50,000 people at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the largest environmental conference in world history. Both meetings offer a clear opportunity for world leaders to step up to the plate and stop these outrageous handouts.
After all, how can you have a serious discussion about funding sustainable development without taking on the hundreds of billions of dollars handed over to the fossil fuel sector each year? A mere fraction of these subsidies could jumpstart thousands of clean energy projects around the world. Large scale transfers of money from dirty to clean investments could catalyze the type of worldwide energy transformation that is desperately needed.
It's still unclear if leaders will take the type of bold action necessary, but the push to end fossil fuel subsidies is gaining momentum around the world. On June 18, a dozen major groups -- from World Wildlife Fund to Avaaz -- are taking part in a 24-hour "Twitter Storm" to try and flood the online airwaves with the #endfossilfuelsubsidies hashtag. The coalition may even be within striking distance of taking down Justin Bieber's twitter world record for the most tweets on a single hashtag.
The slogan for the Rio+20 meetings is, "The Future We Want." By next week, we'll know if our politicians have lived up to that promise or once again bought into "The Future Exxon Wants," a world where our tax dollars continue to get sucked up by the world's richest corporations so that they can continue to profit from destroying the planet.