A coalition of more than 430 environmental organizations spanning 53 countries Thursday called on the Biden administration to quickly cut off all U.S. public financing for fossil fuel projects overseas and work with governments around the world to bring about an end to taxpayer subsidies for the dirty energy sources driving the global climate emergency.
"We urge the Biden administration to act swiftly to end new financing for all parts of the fossil fuel supply chain (including for gas), stop new U.S. fossil fuel support within 90 days across all government institutions, and work with other nations to end fossil fuel financing," reads a letter (pdf) sent to top Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
"By promoting fossil fuel projects overseas, especially gas infrastructure, the U.S. is making it harder for countries to decarbonize."
—Han Chen, Natural Resources Defense CouncilSigned by 432 groups from six continents—including Africa, Asia, and South America—comes weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the White House condemning "handouts to Big Oil" and vowing to work with Congress to eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in the U.S.
"Governments can't claim to be serious about climate change if they pump billions of dollars into the most polluting industries every year," said Alex Doukas of Oil Change International, one of the signatories. "If President Biden is serious about zeroing out emissions by mid-century or earlier, the U.S. must end its billions of dollars in support for oil, gas, and coal projects around the world."
Arguing that U.S. action to end public funding of fossil fuel infrastructure could spur other nations to follow suit, the new letter urges Biden to follow through on his initial steps toward launching a "whole-of-government" approach to tackling the climate crisis. The groups point to Biden's January executive order directing federal officials to craft a plan aimed at "promoting the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments."
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"Despite the need to rapidly reduce fossil fuel production and use, G20 governments have provided more than three times as much in public finance for fossil fuels as for renewable energy every single year since the  adoption of the Paris Agreement," the groups noted. "U.S. institutions, such as the U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)... have provided billions for new fossil fuel projects annually, together averaging $4.4 billion per year over the past decade."
"The good news is that by acting decisively," the letter continues, "the Biden administration can accelerate a global shift away from public finance for fossil fuels."
The coalition proceeds to lay out its desired timeline for action from the Biden administration:
- Develop plans for ending fossil fuel finance across all institutions as soon as possible, within the 90-day timeframe. While the Executive Order does not specify a deadline for Treasury to develop a strategy on the use of "voice and vote," or a deadline for the specified agencies to articulate a plan to promote ending international financing of fossil fuel-based energy, we ask that strategies and implementation plans regarding "voice and vote" and international diplomacy also be completed within a 90-day timeframe, similar to what was specified for other areas such as the development of the "climate finance plan";
- Clear Treasury guidance on the [multilateral development banks] should be released as soon as possible in order to establish the U.S. position ahead of the Asian Development Bank's forthcoming energy policy review, with a draft policy due to be released within weeks;
- Have all measures take effect soon after the completion of the plan, while also seeking comment on ways to strengthen the plans further; and
- Conduct a public consultation process aimed at ensuring the outcome is as ambitious as possible.
"By promoting fossil fuel projects overseas, especially gas infrastructure, the U.S. is making it harder for countries to decarbonize," Han Chen, manager of energy for the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "We have to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies at the expense of our climate."