The federal government is providing $4 billion a year for finding new oil, gas and coal reserves, despite clear evidence most existing reserves need to be left in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change, according to a new report.

The Fossil Fuel bailout: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration, created by Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International, contains the first detailed breakdown of fossil fuel exploration subsidies by Australia and G20 countries, published ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane.

The authors said that “Australia is currently expanding fossil fuel exploration and production on multiple fronts”. After the US, Australia had the highest level of national subsidies for fossil fuel exploration in the G20.

“Despite the widespread perception that renewables are costly, our research reveals that finding new fossil fuel reserves at home and abroad is costing Australian taxpayers $4 billion a year,” The Overseas Development Institute’s Shelagh Whitley said. “Scrapping these fossil fuel exploration subsidies would begin to create a level playing field between renewables and fossil fuel energy.”

Oil Change International’s Director Stephen Kretzmann said that G20 governments had five years ago pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“Immediately ending exploration subsidies is the clearest next step on both fronts,” Mr Kretzmann said.

The report found that G20 governments were collectively spending some $100 billion a year on finding new oil, gas and coal reserves, almost double what the International Energy Agency estimates is needed annually to provide electricity and heat for all by 2030.