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A fair and just transition to renewable energy – The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

Phasing out and leaving no one behind. The three pillars of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation treaty are non-proliferation, a fair phase-out, and a just transition

What is the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative?

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is an international initiative. It calls for a global mechanism to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative comprises a network of more than 400 civil society organizations. 

Their Steering Committee and their International Support Team include climate activists and scientists from all over the globe. Among the prominent figures such as the Steering Committee members Mitzi Jonelle Tan. The convenor and international spokesperson of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) and the Fridays for Future (FFF) of the Philippines, and Tom B.K. Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environment Network. 

«The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a big, bold new proposal, complementary to the Paris Agreement. The goal is to foster international cooperation; to accelerate a fair and equitable shift away from coal, oil, and gas, which is needed to meet our target of staying below one-point-five degrees Celsius of warming». Explained Harjeet Singh, the Strategic Advisor: Global Partnerships to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.

Why was the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative founded? – The need for a complementary treaty

In 2015, the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, was adopted. This Treaty sought to limit the rise in mean global temperature to well below two degrees Celcius (three-point-six degrees Fahrenheit); pursue efforts to keep the temperature increase to one-point-five degrees Celsius (two-point-seven degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. 

Though the commitment to the Paris Agreement has impacted climate change mitigation even as a tool in climate change mitigation; it does not reference fossil fuels, and it hasn’t led to fossil fuel production restrictions. 

An early proposal for a moratorium on the development and expansion of the fossil fuel extracting industries came from officials and civil society leaders in the Pacific through a call issued in 2015 in the Suva Declaration On Climate Change by the Pacific Islands Development Forum Third Annual Summit. 

As the Paris Agreement alone hasn’t brought about a decrease in production, the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative champions the adoption of a complementary agreement implementing a fair and just transition to renewable energy.

«The Paris agreement does not mention coal, oil, and gas. There is a significant gap and a lack of global governance and mechanisms for managing a transition away from fossil fuels. We know that there have been so many campaigns to stop digging coal and drilling oil and gas. But if there is no global agreement that looks at the issue of fossil fuels in a far more practical manner, that deals with the dependence of communities and economies and helps them move away. Without it, we will not be able to make that progress. We need global governance and mechanisms that will help manage a phase-out of fossil fuels. That was the main premise behind founding this initiative». 

What is a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty? 

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative started in 2019 through a Climate Breakthrough Project award. It is based on the best practices of former treaty campaigns and the current struggles led by frontline communities.  

Weapons treaties such as those on landmines and nuclear ban treaties were significant inspirations; as an international synergy of civil society and grassroots efforts brought them about. In addition, scholars have analyzed the analogies between the threat of fossil fuels and that of nuclear weapons. Peter Newell and Andrew Simms from the University of Sussex, Brighton, elaborated on the need for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FF-NPT) in an article published in Climate Policy in 2019. 

«The issues we are trying to solve are primarily the lack of governance and mechanisms for managing a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels. We must fix the responsibility of wealthier countries who are responsible for the crisis and support low-income, fossil fuel-dependent countries. So wealthy countries have to act first, and then they have to support the other countries. We keep hearing that the US, Norway, Canada. And many other countries are going ahead with new oil drilling pipelines and fracking, which cannot happen. We know that fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change and conflict; and the Treaty is proposing a way to end the destruction of our environment and community by creating holistic solutions. This means that we need to be changing our social and economic policies so that nobody is left behind». Said Singh. 

Cowichan Day of Action for a just transition, photo credit Barry Hetschko, Cowichan rally outside MP Alistair MacGregor office

What’s the ethos behind this Treaty? 

The three pillars of the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty are non-proliferation, a fair phase-out, and a just transition. The non-proliferation would stop the growth of the coal, oil, and gas industries; by halting all new exploration and production of fossil fuels. 

In line with the need to align fossil fuel supply with the one-point-five degree Celsius (two-point-seven degrees Fahrenheit) goal of the Paris Agreement; the Treaty would lead to a phase-out of the existing production of fossil fuels. 

This fair phase-out would entail dismantling unneeded infrastructures; defending the rights of Indigenous peoples and impacted communities; limiting fossil fuels extraction, regulating their supply, withdrawing the subsidies for fossil fuels production, and switching to climate-safe alternatives. 

A just transition would ensure a safe and livable climate, a sustainable future, and a healthy economy. Such a transition would entail a diversification of the economy, the implementation of reliable, cost-effective low-carbon solutions, and support for all workers, communities, and nations. 

«Fossil fuels have been equated as weapons of mass destruction because of the way they threaten our ability to protect livelihoods, security, and the planet. Fossil fuels are responsible for eighty-six percent of carbon emissions in the past decade. So despite our efforts over the last 30 years, emissions have increased and have increased ever since the Paris Agreement, which was signed seven years ago. That’s mainly because there has been an expansion of fossil fuels. We have not limited the use of fossil fuels. The government plans for new coal, oil and gas projects will result in more than double the emissions by 2030; which is not consistent with limiting warming to one-point-five degrees». 

How would the phase-out of fossil fuels mitigate the impact of climate change? 

In the second half of the twentieth century, humanity needed treaties to defuse the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Today a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty can combat another threat to society, climate change. In fact, fossil fuels are by far the primary driver of climate change; as they are responsible for eighty-six percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated during the past decade (IPCC). 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘s Working Group III has found that limiting global warming to one-point-five degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is beyond reach without immediate and sizable emissions reductions across all sectors. These reductions would entail profound transitions in the energy sector that will involve a significant decrease in fossil fuel use, and the use of alternative fuels, widespread electrification, and improved energy efficiency. 

Despite the impact of fossil fuels on global temperatures and climate change and the scientific community’s warnings, intergovernmental organizations have put in place no binding mechanism for phasing out their production. This complementary agreement would constrain the production of fossil fuels while supporting dependent economies and communities in the diversification away from fossil fuels and the switch to renewable energy. 

«The war in Ukraine and the rising of fossil fuel prices underscore a need for bold proposals, like the fossil fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, to phase out coal, oil, and gas. The world should rush towards cleaner, greener, safer, and distributed energy systems. In a world where we already had renewable energy systems, we would not have seen that kind of a crisis. We failed to act sooner, and we would have been in a very different situation if we had acted in time». Added Singh. 

What has been the public’s response to the Fossil Fuel Non-ProliferationTreaty Initiative?

Individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments have endorsed the Treaty and its goal of phasing out fossil fuels and supporting a just and fair transition.

Among them, forty-eight cities & subnational governments such as the Hawai’i State Legislature; the cities of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Montreal (Canada), Los Angeles (United States), Curridabat (Costa Rica), and Dhulikhel (Nepal). 152,737 individuals have endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, including 2,755 scientists.

The global grassroots movement 350.org; the alliance of grassroots Indigenous Peoples Indigenous Environment Network; and the international network of environmental organizations Friends of the Earth International are among the more than 1,250 organizations endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Harjeet Singh 

Global expert on the issues of climate impacts, migration and adaptation. He has been supporting countries across the world on tackling climate change. He is also Senior Advisor – Climate Impacts at Climate Action Network – International (CAN-I).

Roberta Fabbrocino

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
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