Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Campaign Gathers Steam


Petrol pump in Rome. Credit: Paul Virgo/IPS
  • by Paul Virgo (Rome)
  • Inter Press Service

“The planet is already 1.2°C hotter (relative to pre-industrial levels), but every day new fossil fuel projects accelerate our race to the abyss,” said the Czech-Canadian prelate.

“Enough is enough. All new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas must be stopped immediately and existing fossil fuel production must be stopped urgently.

“This should be a just transition for affected workers to environmentally friendly alternatives. The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty holds great promise to complement and improve the Paris Agreement.”

The name of the proposed treaty has a familiar ring to it because it was inspired by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that came into effect in 1970 and has successfully helped reduce the threat of nuclear war.

Supporters of the proposed treaty say fossil fuels, like atomic bombs, pose an existential threat to humanity, as they are the main cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the climate crisis.

“Fossil fuels are equated as weapons of mass destruction because of the way they threaten our ability to protect livelihoods, security and the planet,” said Rebecca Byrnes, deputy director of the Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative.

“Fossil fuels are responsible for 86% of CO2 emissions over the past decade. So despite our efforts over the past 30 years, emissions have continued to increase, and this has not changed since the Paris Agreement was signed seven years ago.”

Under the Paris Agreement, the international community agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent necessary to try to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C and, failing that, to keeping them “far below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

But Byrnes said, as things stand now, governments plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels consistent with limiting global temperature increases to within a 1.5 degree range by 2030. , and 10% more than their own climate pledges.

Therefore, she argued that a separate treaty specifically related to fossil fuels is needed to prevent states from making empty commitments on climate policy.

“We need both domestic action and international cooperation to explicitly stop the expansion of fossil fuel production and thus emissions,” she said.

“By tackling just half the equation, countries and companies could claim climate leadership while supporting new coal, oil and gas exploration projects, either directly or indirectly.

“In countries that rely heavily on fossil fuel profits for government revenues and economic development, the supply of fossil fuels is now driving demand.

“It will not be possible to reduce the demand for, and thus the emissions of, fossil fuels without first breaking this fossil fuel lock-in through phasing out, economic diversification measures and finding new development opportunities.

“A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty will complement and implement the Paris Agreement by directly addressing the supply side of the equation and providing support to developing countries that rely on fossil fuels to make this transition.”

One of the positive aspects of the treaty would be that it would help end the perverse situation in which states are sometimes forced to compensate polluters when they shut down fossil fuel projects because of the protection companies enjoy under legal mechanisms such as the Energy Charter Treaty.

“A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty will reduce the risk of legal liability of countries’ governments in both national courts and international tribunals, by providing legal justification for the phase-out policies,” Byrnes said.

Critics have suggested the plan is simply too ambitious to ever materialize.

The treaty campaign may have the Vatican on its side, but the fossil fuel lobby has powerful allies, lots of money, and isn’t shy about using its power to cast doubt on the climate crisis and stop or delay emissions cuts.

“Part of the criticism we’re getting about the idea of ​​the treaty is that it’s unfeasible and we don’t have time to negotiate something like this,” Byrnes said.

“The same was wrongly said about arms treaties.

“But we don’t have time for more of the same. We know that oil-producing countries are unlikely to enthusiastically embrace a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and that the fossil fuel industry has enormous influence.

“But that’s what the tobacco industry did at some point before the formation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“Just creating the concept of a treaty leads to new ambition and new conversations”.

Indeed, the treaty campaign is in full swing.

It has the support of more than 100 Nobel laureates, including the Dalai Lama, and dozens of the world’s largest cities, such as London, Barcelona, ​​Paris, Montreal, Lima, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles.

In September the World Health Organization joined the many international organizations supporting the campaign.

“Modern addiction to fossil fuels is not just an act of environmental vandalism. From a health perspective, it is an act of self-sabotage,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In President Nikenike Vurobaravu’s speech at this year’s United Nations General Assembly, Vanuatu became the first nation-state to call for a fossil fuel treaty.

And on October 20, the European Parliament called on nation-states to “work towards developing a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty” in a resolution outlining the requirements for COP27.

“The world has seen treaties deliver results when the world needs to manage, restrict and phase out dangerous products, including weapons of mass destruction, ozone-depleting substances and tobacco,” Byrnes concluded.

“Today we see oil and gas fueling war in Ukraine and elsewhere, posing a grave danger that will require us and world governments to rally behind a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.”

It is possible to subscribe to the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty via the campaign’s website.

Furthermore, the Parents For Future Global network of climate parent groups has launched a letter that people can sign online to show their support.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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