LONDON, Feb 18 — The world must by 2030 slash US$1.8 trillion (RM7.5 trillion) in annual subsidies that destroy the environment, in order to “finance a net-zero global economy”, according to a study Thursday from business groups including one founded by tycoon Richard Branson.

The report, estimating the value of damaging state subsidies, was commissioned by Branson’s nonprofit initiative The B Team and global coalition Business for Nature, which comprises academic, corporate and environmental organisations.

The vast subsidies, totalling two per cent of global gross domestic product, fund the “global destruction of nature” and governments worldwide must act, the two organisations said in a statement.

The study “finds the fossil fuel, agriculture and water industries receive more than 80 per cent of all environmentally harmful subsidies per year”, the organisations concluded.

And they called upon governments to “redirect, repurpose or eliminate” those subsidies by 2030 to help “finance a net-zero global economy”.

At least 20 nations were subsidising the price of gasoline or petrol, sparking higher emissions of carbon and other dangerous air pollutants, the research suggested.

Beef and soy production were also stimulated by “significant” subsidy flows that are a cause of tropical rainforest loss in Brazil, the report found.

European policies on biofuel blending biofuels with motor fuel meanwhile ramped up pressure for new cropland, often at the expense of tropical biodiversity hotspots, the study added.

And illegal logging, often via corruption and favouritism over lumbering concessions, contributed to climate change, deforestation and ecosystem destruction.

“Nature is declining at an alarming rate, and we have never lived on a planet with so little biodiversity,” said Christiana Figueres, head of The B Team’s climate group.

“At least US$1.8 trillion is funding the destruction of nature and changing our climate, while creating huge risks for the very businesses who are receiving the subsidies.”

Governments across the world pay an estimated US$640 billion in support to the fossil fuel industry, contributing to climate change, air and water pollution and land subsidence, the study found.

Agriculture receives some US$520 billion in subsidies that contribute towards soil erosion, water pollution, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity and natural habitats, it claimed.

And another US$350 billion in subsidies for the water industry is said to help fund water pollution and risk ocean and waterway ecosystems. 

Figueres said that “harmful subsidies must be redirected towards protecting the climate and nature, rather than financing our own extinction”.

The study was published one month before the next phase of the UN biodiversity summit COP15 in Geneva.

The research was based on data from the International Energy Agency watchdog and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is a club of industrialised economies that includes wealthy G20 members. — AFP