Fossil fuel subsidies are killing both people and the planet. By encouraging excessive consumption of fossil fuels, subsidies exacerbate pollution and climate change, make violent protests more likely, and waste huge sums that could be used far better. Yet for years there has been minimal progress in eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. This book explains what fossil fuel subsidies are, how they inflict harm and what steps are being taken to reduce them. It also shows why subsidies persist and why existing efforts have been so ineffective. Drawing lessons from countries which have tried to remove fossil fuel subsidies, it explains that the fundamental challenge to reform is not technical, but political. The catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic war in Ukraine illustrate that fossil fuel subsidy reform will only succeed where it supports the achievement of things that really matter politically – energy security, protection from climate change, better air quality, and resources to improve people's lives. The book lays out a new agenda for action on fossil fuel subsidies, showing how a better understanding of the underlying political incentives can lead to more effective approaches to tackling this major global problem.
2. What are fossil fuel subsidies and how big are they?
3. The impact of fossil fuel subsidies
4. Why subsidies persist
5. What is being done and why it's not working
6. Countries are doing it for themselves
7. COVID, War, and Build Back Worse
8. A new approach to FFSR
"Neil McCulloch's Stopping Fossil Fuel Subsidies is well worth reading because it takes seriously the complexities of the problem. McCulloch recognises the importance of this topic for plenary protection, but his primary lens is the complex politics and ground realities that lead to political lock-in in fossil fuel subsidising countries. Instead of espousing an abstract global rationality to removing fossil fuel subsidies, he focuses on the need to understand country contexts – the consumption subsidies, the political campaign contributions, the lack of credibility of alternative support – that make fossil fuel removal political fraught. This is the right starting point. Only once he gets 'beneath the surface', as he puts it, does he offer practical, manageable, steps toward reform; steps that take seriously the real political economies of real places and the need to avoid impacts on the poorest. Written in crisp and accessible prose, and sprinkled with country examples, McCulloch's is the best and most accessible text I have seen on the thorny, yet essential challenge of removing fossil fuel subsidies."
– Professor Navroz Dubash, Centre for Policy Research
"The world faces overlapping climate, food and energy crises. Yet the governments of both rich and poor nations continue to spend billions of dollars subsidising fossil fuel subsidies. This book explains why. But it also shows how politicians and citizens together could end fossil fuel subsidies and use resources to reduce poverty and inequality worldwide."
– Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies
"In a climate emergency why are fossil fuel subsidies still so high? The answer lies in the politics of their distribution and use. This excellent, accessible and timely overview of the topic shows why policymakers often feel trapped and fail to make the changes needed. But it also shows how engaged citizens can help to make change happen."
– Professor Peter Newell, University of Sussex, author of Power Shift
"'Understanding the politics of why fossil fuel subsidies persist is essential to the design of effective reforms. Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies provides a treasure trove of insights about what can practically be done to tackle the problem – it should be read by policymakers everywhere."
– Vivien Foster, Chief Infrastructure Economist, World Bank
"This excellent short book tells you why ending fossil fuel subsidies matters, why it so hard to achieve, and offers a new, politically savvy approach to tackling the problem."
– Peter Wooders, former Head of Global Subsidies Initiative, International Institute for Sustainable Development
"Climate change is an existential challenge for the planet. That makes it all the more astonishing that some governments still subsidise fossil fuels. Neil McCulloch's wonderful, short book explains why ending fossil fuel subsidies has been challenging and charts a politically smart way in which it could be done."
– Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand
"Climate change is an existential challenge for the planet. Yet, astonishingly, governments still subsidise fossil fuels. Neil McCulloch's wonderful, short book explains why it is hard to end fossil fuel subsidies, but also charts a politically savvy way in which it could be done."
– Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations
"As the world faces a food and nutrition crisis, governments everywhere are looking for resources to protect citizens. This wonderful little book provides an answer – ending fossil fuel subsidies could release billions of dollars to safeguard nutrition across the world. Better still, the book shows how to tackle the challenge of navigating the complex politics of reform."
– Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition