The politics of fossil fuel subsidies and their reform: Implications for climate change mitigation

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The production and consumption of fossil fuels need to decrease significantly to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement's ambitious climate change goals. However, fossil fuels continue to receive significant amounts of government support. Although reforming fossil fuel subsidies can yield climate change mitigation benefits, the specific international and domestic political context and political economy of fossil fuel subsidies means that such reform is not straightforward and may not be aligned with traditional climate politics. Our objective in this review article is to examine the implications of the politics of fossil fuel subsidies and their reform for climate change mitigation. The first step of examining these implications is to review existing studies on the size and impacts of global fossil fuel subsidies. Subsequently, we discuss the international politics of fossil fuel subsidies, including the emerging norm of fossil fuel subsidy reform, and the respective roles played by the international climate regime and several international economic institutions. Finally, we examine why fossil fuel subsidies are introduced and maintained at the domestic level, how fossil fuel subsidy reform has functioned in practice, and whether and how such reform could be conceived as an instrument for climate policy. This article is categorized under: The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Policies, Instruments, Lifestyles, Behavior Policy and Governance > Private Governance of Climate Change.


External organisations
  • University of Eastern Finland
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidies, norms, political economy
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere581
Pages (from-to) 300-302
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Issue number4
Early online date2019 Feb 27
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

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