Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform
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Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform

An International Law Response

Vernon J.C. Rive

This much-needed book provides an empirically-grounded, and theoretically informed account of international law sources, mechanisms, initiatives and institutions which address and affect the practice of subsidising fossil fuel consumption and production. Drawing on recent scholarship on emerging international governance mechanisms, ‘informal’ international law-making and regime interaction, it offers suggestions, and critiques suggestions of others, for how the international law framework could be employed more effectively and appropriately to respond to environmentally and fiscally harmful fossil fuel subsidies.
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Chapter 3: Operation and critiques of fossil fuel subsidies

Vernon J.C. Rive


This chapter provides an overview of the economic, policy and legal critiques of fossil fuel subsidies, examining three basic (connected) questions: (1) What do fossil fuel subsidies do? (2) Why do governments provide and maintain them? and (3) Why are fossil fuel subsidies seen as harmful? Assessing the effects of fossil fuel subsidies and their removal involves enquiry into first-order static effects, but also second-order dynamic effects which take into flow-on effects on domestic and global demand and supply of fossil fuels. The examination of underlying motivations for providing fossil fuel subsidies addresses the positive effects of fossil fuel subsidies including: poverty alleviation; fuel-switching; energy security; political stability; and the broader role of subsidies in contributing to economic growth. Critiques of fossil fuels include consideration of fiscal responsibility, resource conservation, distortion of international trade flows, non-climate change-related environmental impacts such as local and regional air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions-focused critiques. The chapter includes an introduction to the broad (and contested) concept of economic inefficiency which features strongly in a number of emerging international normative frameworks concerning fossil fuel subsidies.

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