‘Each year $1.8tn is spent on subsidies that harm the planet’

A new report reveals that 2% of global GDP is spent annually on measures that damage the Earth

Big Zero Report 2023

The world spends $1.8 trillion (£1.3tn) a year on subsidies that damage the environment and push species to extinction.

That’s according to a study from the B Team and Business for Nature, which makes the quite striking conclusion that “public money is financing our own extinction”.

It describes environmentally harmful subsidies (EHS) as those that exhaust natural resources, degrade ecosystems and damage the health of the planet. The authors state they are commonplace across agriculture, forestry, transport, fossil fuel and water sectors and stress that reforming them is critical.

The research cites the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ranking of climate action failure as the top threat towards humanity as the chief reason for this; warning that divesting in harmful industries and practices is imperative in fighting climate change.

A better understanding and greater transparency around the financial flows of subsidies is being called for by the study to appropriately reform spending.

It is also calling for more monitoring to be in place for government subsidies to ensure they are not harming the planet but also continue to benefit those in low economic households and those who require the investment.

Christiana Figueres, a member of the B Team, said: “We have never lived on a planet with [such] little biodiversity. At least $1.8 trillion (£1.3tn) is funding the destruction of nature and changing our climate, while creating huge risks for the very businesses who are receiving the subsidies.

“In the meantime, we still have not met the Paris Agreement climate finance target of $100 billion (£73.4bn) per year. Harmful subsidies must be redirected towards protecting the climate and nature, rather than financing our own extinction.”

Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and Co-founder of The B Team, added: “We must develop a deeper understanding of their devastating impacts and redirect our resources to the policies that help create a more sustainable future for all.”

Make sure you check out the latest Net Hero Podcast episode: