Despite being a major cause of climate change and the risks it poses to health, nature, and the global economy, the fossil fuel industry continues to soak up huge amounts of taxpayer money around the world. Fossil fuel companies receive “shocking” levels of taxpayer subsidies, estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be US$10 million dollars a minute.

The IMF found the cost of these subsidies, along with the external costs associated with extracting and burning coal, oil and gas, adds up to $5.3 trillion each year.

Globally, fossil fuel subsidies are higher than the total health spending by all the world’s governments combined. This is a perverse situation.

As concerns mount about some of the world’s richest companies receiving huge taxpayer handouts, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is demanding that governments redouble their efforts to fight climate change, add new jobs in the emerging green economy, and ensure a just transition to renewable sources of energy.

Not a hard sell, considering the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has found 7.7 million people are employed in the renewable sector worldwide—an 18% increase over the last year. Still, the transition to the needed and inevitable clean energy future requires the vast, unjust fossil fuel subsidies to be eliminated.

Fossil fuel subsidies are a perverse incentive that continue to drain the global economy. G20 countries have spent $458 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 – money that could have been allocated towards much needed education, healthcare, security and other vital country needs.

The G7 in Germany earlier this year demonstrated international progress towards the commitment of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and the global divestment movement has generated rapidly across the world. The G20 in Turkey is a key moment to further deepen these commitments.

The European Union flagged recently its efforts to bring the absurd levels of fossil fuel subsidies to the fore during the talks in Turkey. With a meaningful effort to phase them out. G20 country leaders have a stark choice. This is a choice about the future of the global climate. A choice between dirty fuels of the past and clean technologies of the future. The choice is simple.

The wrong choice as the science compellingly outlines, puts us on the wrong road, a road that is – high polluting, high carbon and a high impact pathway.

Photo credit: CGP Grey on Flickr