Helen Mountford: Fossil subsidies can't continue in move to strong, low carbon economy

Ilario D'Amato
11 December 2015

Helen Mountford, Programme Director, New Climate Economy

PARIS: As COP21 heads toward its conclusion with Parties working late into the night on the global climate deal, Climate TV speaks to Helen Mountford, Programme Director, New Climate Economy, to find out what she believes we need from the agreement to spark a faster transition to a prosperous, low carbon economy.  

“There is a lot of potential for a successful agreement,” the Director tells The Climate Group’s Climate TV. “Part of the reason we have that is that we have moved beyond some of the previous discussions on climate, which were very much focused around countries and nations and what they can do, to actually bring in some of the voices of business and regional governments, whether it’s states or cities or civil society. And this is showing that this is a more collective action.”

While over 180 countries have submitted their national climate plans, or INDCs, Helen Mountford also applauds the 300 cities that have signed up to the Compact of Cities, as well as the increasingly “strong voice” from businesses and investors, which are “committing themselves to take action to go toward decarbonization or zero emissions in their business work, and to go toward clear reporting in their investments associated with carbon related sectors. We have really had a shift in who is participating and acting. This is a more global effort to work toward a solution.”

On the climate agreement itself there are three clear indicators of success, she explains. “We need a very clear long-term goal of where we need to get to for decarbonization in the future. This is a strong signal to business, investors and consumers on where we are going to be going, the direction of travel and how to do that.”

The second key action needed to come out of the global pact is a system in place to ratchet up ambitions and assess progress over time. “While a lot of INDCs are ambitious, we have a lot coming forward, they are not enough; we are not going to get on a pathway consistent with keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius through these alone.

"So we need a mechanism to be able to come back again in five years’ time by 2020, to review progress to see how much – with further innovation and further development – the costs of action have come down, and how much easier it is; and then building on that to the make further commitment.”


Helen Mountford explains that this mechanism “makes good economic sense”, because we could never have predicted the amount of renewables we have in today’s energy system and so should check back regularly to make changes based on changing trends. “Last year was the first year ever that we had more renewable capacity built globally than fossil fuel capacity and that happened because within four years the cost of solar PV came down 90%, and we had huge development in terms of wind.

The third key issue that will define a successful outcome at COP is finance, according to New Climate Economy Director. Many developing countries “have come forward with strong INDCs, they have a lot of ambition, we need to be able to support them and let that transition happen.”

Concluding her Climate TV interview, Helen Mountford says subsidizing fossil fuels is also a critical problem that is slowing the economic transition to a cleaner, more prosperous future. Today such subsidies amount to US$650 billion a year. “One of the major challenges out there is that countries around the world are still subsidizing fossil fuel use, production and exploration. That is something that can’t continue if we are trying to move toward a low carbon economy.”

  • You can watch more of our exclusive video interviews with climate leaders and experts by following the hashtag #ClimateTV on social media.
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