Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tells U.S. Congress not to subsidise fossil fuel production
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg warned U.S. lawmakers on Thursday that history will hold them accountable for climate catastrophes if they do not stop subsidizing fossil fuel production, calling tax breaks for the industry a "disgrace."
Thunberg, 18, whose activism has inspired a global movement, testified virtually to a House of Representatives panel on the day President Joe Biden began a virtual two-day Earth Day summit pledging to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
"The simple fact, and uncomfortable fact, is that if we are to live up to our promises and commitments in Paris, we have to end fossil fuel subsidies ... now," Thunberg said, referring to the international 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The United States under Biden rejoined the Paris agreement in February, after former President Donald Trump pulled out.
"The fact that we are still having this discussion, and even more that we are still subsidizing fossil fuels, directly or indirectly, using taxpayer money is a disgrace," Thunberg told the House Oversight Committee's environmental subcommittee.
Thunberg, whose activism began at age 15 when she started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament for climate change, voiced pessimism.
The subcommittee chairman, Representative Ro Khanna, is pressuring Biden, a fellow Democrat, to keep a campaign promise to end fossil fuel subsidies such as tax breaks and regulatory loopholes.
Khanna asked Thunberg if it would be a "gut punch" to environmentalists if fossil fuel subsidies were not eliminated in Biden's current $2.3 plan to overhaul U.S. infrastructure.
"Yes, pretty much," Thunberg replied.
But Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president for policy at the American Petroleum Institute, argued for keeping tax policies that promote energy investment in the United States. He told lawmakers the United States was already the global leader in carbon dioxide emissions reductions in recent years.
The subcommittee's senior Republican, Representative Ralph Norman, rejected "doomsday scenarios" about climate. He said children had been greatly affected by the fear of climate change, and asked Thunberg why she had said previously that she wanted people to "panic" about it.
"I want people to step out of their comfort zones, and not just see the climate crisis as a distant threat, but rather as something that is impacting people already today," Thunberg said.
Biden has called for replacing fossil fuel subsidies with incentives for clean energy production as part of his infrastructure plan, but the plan has not specified which tax breaks for fossil fuel companies would be targeted.
Khanna listed some tax breaks he wants repealed, including one called intangible drilling costs, which allows producers to deduct most costs from drilling new wells.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)
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