Energy Policy Tracker Shows G20 Have Committed $151 Billion to Fossil Fuels

Are we building back better? New Energy Policy Tracker shows that governments are supporting fossil fuels over clean energy in COVID-19 recovery.

G20 governments have pledged to inject trillions of dollars into the global economy to counteract the shocks caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This large-scale stimulus spending will shape the global economy for decades to come. These decisions could trigger unbearable climate disasters or create a resilient and safe economy powered by clean energy.

Despite ongoing rhetoric on green recovery from governments worldwide, the tracker unveils the depressing reality.

  • A total commitment of at least US$ 151 billion from G20 governments in support of fossil fuels.
  • Of these, only 20% make financial support conditional on green requirements. For example, setting climate targets or implementing pollution reduction plans.
  • Unconditional fossil fuel pledges total US$ 120 billion.
  • Only US$ 89 billion has been committed to clean energy but 81% of this support is unspecific about the appropriate environmental safeguards.
Chart showing 56% of total public money committed to energy is for fossil fuels, 33% for clean energy, 11% for other
The Tracker shows the huge difference in public funds pledged to fossil fuels compared to clean energy.

There is a great risk for this chance to be lost

G20 countries are responsible for around 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and account for 85% of global GDP. With G20 governments committed to injecting over US$ 8 trillion into the global economy, decisions made today about how these funds will be distributed will lock in the world’s environmental footprint for decades to come.

Recovery packages offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make the shift to a low-carbon economy. There is a great risk for this enormous chance to be lost. “Many of these packages include ideas that will instead lock us further into a dirty fossil fuel system. Some directly promote natural gas, coal or oil. Others, though claiming a green focus, build the roof and forget the foundation,” says REN21 Executive Director, Rana Adib.

Fossil fuels were a bad investment, even pre-COVID-19

The Renewables 2020 Global Status Report, launched in June, showed that “green” recovery measures, such as investment in renewables and building efficiency, are more cost effective than traditional stimulus measures and yield more returns. It also documents that renewables deliver on job creation, energy sovereignty, accelerated energy access, reduced emissions and air pollution.

Graph showing the amount of jobs in renewable energy. 11 million jobs globally in 2018.
Investments in renewable energy promote job creation.

“Under the guise of COVID-19 recovery spending, governments are pouring huge volumes of public money into the struggling fossil fuel industry, wasting an opportunity to fight the climate crisis while enriching big polluters,” says Alex Doukas, a Program Director at OCI. “Recovery spending must dramatically change course to support clean energy as an investment in the future, instead of subsidizing the polluters of the past. Fossil fuels were a bad investment even before the pandemic began.”

The tracker shows how public money is being spent

The Energy Policy Tracker database is updated on a weekly basis, to provide the latest information about COVID-19 government policy responses from a climate and energy perspective. The analysis provides a detailed overview of the public finance flows as determined by recovery packages across the G20.

REN21 researcher and analyst Lea Ranalder is part of the team behind the tracker; “In order to understand whether we are on a pathway that supports a green recovery, we need to critically look at recovery packages.” She explains. “It’s important that we have the numbers and data to showcase how public money is being spent. We need to hold our governments accountable – especially when public support for the energy transition is strong!”

REN21 is proud to be part of the research consortium behind the tracker, alongside 13 other expert organisations: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Oil Change International (OCI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Columbia University in New York City, Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS), Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (INESC), Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE), Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), Legambiente, and The Australia Institute (TAI).

Check out the Energy Policy Tracker database at

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