Fossil fuel providers given £20bn more in government funding than renewables since 2015

“This reckless government is backing the wrong horse by betting on fossil fuels in a climate and energy crisis. These figures lay bare the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry continues to have over government decision making - and taxpayer’s money."

Shell lorry

New research has found that in the last eight years, the fossil fuel industry has received £80bn in government support, compared the £60bn given to renewables.

The research was commissioned by the Liberal Democrats for the Guardian. It found that while in 2020 funding for renewables was higher than for fossil fuels for the first time, the latter has since been receiving greater additional investment.

From 2020 to 2021, fossil fuel providers received a 10.7 percent increase in government support, than in 2020, equating to an additional £1bn. This contrasts sharply to the £1m – 0.01 percent of increased funding – renewable projects received in the same year. According to analysis by the House of Commons library, a fifth of the funding given to the fossil fuel industry was to support mining and new extraction.

Left Foot Forward asked Greenpeace their thoughts on the research and how the government continues to prioritise fossil fuels over renewables.

Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor for Greenpeace UK, said:

“This reckless government is backing the wrong horse by betting on fossil fuels in a climate and energy crisis. These figures lay bare the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry continues to have over government decision making – and taxpayer’s money.

“Genuine energy security lies in the rapid rollout of renewables, investment in storage and a smarter grid, as well as an upgrade to our cold, inefficient homes through the likes of insulation and heat pumps.

“The quicker we can kick our fossil fuel habit and maximise cheaper and cleaner technologies, the quicker we can achieve real energy security and meet our climate commitments.”

In response to the findings of the research, Wera Hobhouse, spokesperson for the Lib Dems on climate and energy, commented: “It is extremely alarming that the Conservative government has been giving these staggering amounts to the fossil fuel industry. Not only have the Conservatives failed to properly tax the record profits of the oil and gas giants, they have showered these companies with taxpayer money too.

“We have been through one of the toughest winters on record and the energy crisis is still biting hard. The government squandered the opportunity to shield us from these spiralling energy bills through their lack of long-term thinking. For years, they gave billions to the fossil fuel industry, rather than actually improving our energy security by investing properly in renewables.”

Hobhouse continued that the funding disparities are further proof of the government’s ‘legacy of failure on climate change. “They need to get a grip and start putting net zero at the heart of all our policy decisions. It will grant us the energy-secure, green future we desperately need,” she added.

In August 2022, a report by Channel 4 News showed that big energy companies had been investing the equivalent 5 percent of their record profits in green projects. The analysis found that in the first half of 2022, BP invested £300m into renewables and ‘low carbon’ — equivalent to just 2.5% of its £12.2bn profits. By comparison, the energy giant invested £3.8bn in new oil and gas projects — more than 10 times its low carbon investments. Similarly, Shell invested the equivalent of 6.3 percent of its £17.1bn profits into low carbon energy, and invested nearly three times more in oil and gas in the same period.

Meanwhile, government advisors warned this week that ministers must take control of the UK’s energy system, including building the windfarms and other renewable power needed to meet net zero goals. Chris Stark, chief executive of the committee on climate change, the government’s statutory energy adviser, said:

“It would be an enormous mistake to wait until the next general election to introduce new ambitious policy.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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