Fossil Fuel Subsidies Award Winners Revealed

Nine European countries have been named and shamed today in a public fossil fuel subsidies awards ceremony in Brussels. From 10 April until 8 May, the public voted on the deadliest, dirtiest and sneakiest subsidies to fossil fuels in Europe.

A Special Award was also symbolically handed out to the EU institutions for their support to gas infrastructure, and in particular to the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline

CAN Europe and a coalition of NGOs staged the awards in Brussels, marking the culmination of online nominations, public voting and campaigning. The awards raise attention to the different ways that European governments use tax payers’ money to fuel climate change through burning more fossil fuels. Fossil fuel subsidies represent an economic dead-end, especially in times of scarce public resources and in the light of investments required to ensure the clean energy transition.

In today’s medal ceremony, Poland cruised to gold in the Deadly Funding category for misusing EU funds to burn coal. Norway topped the Dirty Tax Gift leaderboard for using taxpayers’ money to support arctic oil exploration, while Ireland was crowned number one for giving Sneaky Special Treatment to peat-burning.

CAN Europe’s Director Wendel Trio explained: “These awards reveal that financial commitments are not consistent with Government promises to tackle climate change in line with the Paris Agreement. With the awards we expose a large amount of largely hidden subsidies for fossil fuels and call on all European Governments to phase them out urgently and no later than 2020. We also ask them to make their budgets 100% climate-friendly and implement the clean energy transition as soon as possible. They must put their people and environment ahead of polluting fossil fuels.”

Kuba Gogolewski from the Polish Foundation Development YES – Open-Pit Mines NO (Fundacja “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE”) said: “Not paying for the damage done to society is simply cheating. Even more so when the exemption (e.g. article 10C of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme – ETS) is used to undermine the purpose that it was meant to achieve in the first place”. This ETS exemption allows electricity installations in Central and Eastern Europe to emit greenhouse gases for free in exchange for investing the agreed amount of money into cleaning up their energy mix. However Poland misuses it to fund its old coal power plants instead.

Silje Ask Lundberg from Friends of the Earth Norway and Nina Jensen from WWF-Norway said: “Norwegian taxpayers pick up the bill for oil exploration even in the most vulnerable areas in the Arctic. This has to end. A renewable future has no room for fossil fuels. Norway should invest in climate solutions, not in actions that will take us further into a climate crisis

Meaghan Carmody from the Irish Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said:The peatlands are Ireland’s Amazon and we simply have to stop subsidizing their destruction. Burning peat produces just 9% of our electricity but 22% of our climate pollution from power generation. The Government needs to sit down with the company, the unions, the communities and ourselves right now to plan a rapid and just transition to a more sustainable future.”




Nicolas Derobert, CAN Europe Communications Coordinator, +32 483 62 18 88,



Visit the Fossil Fuel Subsidies Awards website

Definitions: similar to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), we argue that any form of government action or public intervention which lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production or consumption can be defined as a subsidy. This includes direct funding (e.g. for coal mines’ operations) and tax exemptions (e.g. on diesel fuel), preferential loans and guarantees from public banks, and giving favourable access to resources, infrastructure and land. In addition, environmental degradation, air pollution and health costs stemming from extracting and burning fossil fuels are not carried by the industry but paid by society. Therefore, these ‘external costs’ are also considered as fossil fuel subsidies.

To know more about fossil fuel subsidies, please read our Data on fossil fuel subsidies and CSO reports on fossil fuel subsidies

The nominations process was carried out by a jury consisted of CAN Europe, CEE Bankwatch Network, Counter Balance, Friends of the Earth Europe, Green Budget Europe(GBE), Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Oil Change International, Overseas Development Institute, WWF European Policy Office.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 130 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.

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Background briefing: The award results in full (Annex to the European PR)

  1. Special EU Award

A special award was granted to the EU institutions for their political and financial support for gas infrastructure, in particular to the Southern Gas Corridor project. The controversial project involves subsidies from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank to build a mega gas pipeline from the Caspian sea to Europe.

  1. Deadly Funding Award

Much to our dismay, governments and institutions all over Europe still fund health-harming fossil fuels. Be it by direct transfer of money or by giving pollution permits out for free, millions of EUROs are going to polluting companies that directly undermine our efforts to protect the climate and citizen’s health.

  • Gold: Poland misusing funds to reign as the King of Coal

Polish government uses a policy exemption from the EU’s flagship climate action instrument to subsidise its old polluting coal plants.
More information:

  • Silver: Families and forests forced to make room for coal mining in Romania

The Romanian state is fostering land expropriations required for expanding a coal mine, displacing families and destroying nature.
More information:

  • Bronze: German obsolete coal power plants paid to rest idle before closing down

Energy companies will get paid for keeping their oldest and most inefficient power plants on standby, at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.
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Multiple incomes for polluting and unsustainable biomass in the United Kingdom.
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  1. Dirty Tax Gift Award

While we all nicely pay taxes on our income, our governments are handing out tax breaks (exemptions, deductions and refunding for all kinds of fees and duties) for a huge amount of dirty activities for doing the same, thereby stimulating such activities to continue rather than contributing to the zero carbon transition that we need.

  • Gold: Norwegian taxpayers covering oil exploration in the Arctic

The Norwegian state takes most of the risks for new oil field exploration in the Barents Sea, locking Norway into decades of oil extraction.
More information:

  • Silver: Estonian government slashes fees for dirty oil shale extraction

The Estonian government cuts extraction charges for oil shale mining, leading to elevated combustion of the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
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  • Bronze: Company car privilege is eating into Hungary’s wealth

Low taxation and unlimited private use of company cars obstruct progress towards environmentally friendly modes of transport.
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Italian fossil fuel industry lightened from natural gas duty
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  1. Sneaky Special Treatment Award

Sometimes governments are especially sneaky, hiding their support to polluting companies particularly well such as in the case of cheap access to loans, guarantees, land and infrastructure or preferential purchase and sale of goods and services.

  • Gold: Irish picking up the bill to burn peat

Irish consumers pay surcharges on their electricity bill to compensate for state-owned company Electricity Supply Board (ESB) generating electricity from burning peat – one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.
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  • Silver: State-owned Electricity Generation Utility developing new coal reserves in Turkey

EÜAŞ has taken the lead in exploring new local coal reserves, making unprofitable coal projects bankable for investors and financiers.
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  • Bronze: Feed-in tariffs for Slovakian domestic coal

Slovak consumers subsidise domestic lignite mining and electricity production from domestic coal with 95 million Euro annually.
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Czech export loan and guarantee for Turkish coal power plant gone bust.

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