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If the world is to avoid climate catastrophe, it will have to forego burning almost 90 percent of proven coal reserves, plus one-third of oil and half of natural-gas reserves. But instead of implementing policies aimed at realizing that objective, governments continue not only to subsidize the fossil-fuel industry, but also to use scarce public resources to find new reserves. According to the International Monetary Fund, post-tax subsidies for coal (including environmental damage) reached 3.9 percent of global GDP this year. In the European Union, coal combustion is responsible for 18,200 premature deaths and 8,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis per year. In China, an estimated 250,000 people die prematurely because of coal combustion.For the 48 least-developed countries, the costs of coal will soon amount to an estimated $50 billion per year.Far from receiving subsidies, the fossil-fuel industry should be paying for climate change. First and foremost, world leaders must commit to phasing out fossil fuels, with the explicit goal of leaving 90 percent of proven coal reserves, one-third of oil reserves, and half of gas reserves in the ground.
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