A Global Call for an Equitable Wind Down of Fossil Fuels

By Allison Robertshaw, Bulb Foundation

The world needs to wind down oil, gas and coal production 6% annually to meet the Paris goal of keeping to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Despite this, national governments have plans to expand production at levels that would result in 120 percent more emissions than the 1.5C limit.  This presents a threat to humanity on par with nuclear weapons in the 20th century. A threat that governments and the fossil fuel industry are not being held accountable for.

Currently, there is no mechanism globally to limit fossil fuel expansion. The Paris Agreement does not even mention oil, gas and coal.  The full extent of plans to produce these dangerous fuels is unknown as there is no publicly available source of information identifying the actual, planned, and potential fossil fuel production or related emissions. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to determine how to use the last of the world’s carbon budget in a just way and the extent to which proceeding with business as usual will overshoot it.

That is why a growing network of civil society, Indigenous, youth, government, academic, business and other leaders from the Global South and North are joining together to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to wind down oil, gas and coal in keeping with 1.5C and fast track a fair energy and economic transition.

Renewed multilateral cooperation to end the expansion of fossil fuels is fundamental to addressing the climate crisis.  Front movers such as Spain, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Belize are taking steps to end production, yet no country can address the threat alone given the scale of the challenge, the pace of change required and the need to ensure equity so that countries, communities, and workers are not left behind.

The issue of equity is central. Wealthy fossil fuel producing nations have the greatest capacity to lead and must work with other nations to ensure a global wind down of fossil fuel production and emissions. G20 nations are among the countries that have benefited the most from fossil fuels and many are in the best position to be early movers.  For example, the United States and Germany have the greatest ability to transition away from coal given their economies are not reliant on the industry for jobs and they have resources to mitigate the impacts of a transition. Similarly, the U.S., UK, Canada and Norway are less dependent on oil and gas for government revenues and are in a stronger financial position to make a shift than in places such as Nigeria, Azerbaijan, and the Congo.

Production cannot be left to markets to constrain given they are distorted by billions in fossil fuel subsidies and some governments purchasing major projects.  If the markets determine who and where production happens, it will be decided based on price alone and not on equity, climate impacts, or biodiversity.

A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty would complement the Paris Agreement, drawing from past efforts to thwart threats to humanity including nuclear weapons along three pathways:

Non-Proliferation – Don’t Add to the Problem

An immediate end to the expansion into new reserves of coal, oil and natural gas to limit the globe’s production of carbon emissions.

Global Disarmament – Get Rid of the Existing Threat

Existing oil and gas fields and coal mines contain more than enough carbon on their own to exceed 1.5C. Phasing out those current stockpiles is a much-needed step to keep the world under Paris Agreement temperature limits.

Peaceful Transition – Accelerate an Equitable Transition

Every worker, community, and country must be taken into consideration. Only a proactive plan to enable economic diversification, implement renewable energy and other reliable, cost-effective low-carbon solutions will be able to meet the needs of a sustainable future.

The global campaign to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is uniting grassroots groups who are fighting on the frontlines with youth groups, Indigenous leaders, civil society organizations, academics and scientists. It is in fact the first ambitious global climate demand since before the Paris Accord.  Hundreds of organizations have endorsed the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and are working together to advance its creation by:

Building an evidence base for action through the development of a Global Registry of Fossil Fuels that tracks existing, planned and potential production and emissions and other transparency and just transition research projects;

Changing the narrative on fossil fuels by elevating local stories of resistance to fossil fuels and a global call for a phase out and fair transition; and

Generating political pressure and buy-in from international government bodies, national, sub-national and local governments for a treaty and the adoption of phase out and fair transition plans.

Momentum is growing as partners sign on from around the world. Cities are joining the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty akin to the Nuclear Free Cities movement that helped pressure national governments to disarm. Vancouver, Canada was the first city to endorse the treaty followed by Barcelona, Spain.  The Bulb and Quadrature foundations are among the philanthropic organizations supporting the initiative. As more stakeholders join, fossil fuel companies will find it increasingly difficult to defend expansion plans to governments and investors.

Demand-side emissions (the burning/use of fossil fuels) reduction strategies have been the centerpiece of climate action. The growing production gap highlights these efforts must be accompanied with supply side solutions (the production and distribution of fossil fuels) to achieve global climate goals. Philanthropy can help accelerate this shift in how the world grapples with the climate crisis by supporting the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and grassroots movements in the Global South and North resisting fossil fuels to be part of this global call for a phase out and fair transition.

For more information visit the Bulb Foundation, Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty website and introduction video.



Arian Okhovat, Communications F20 | arian.okhovat@foundations-20.org

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