On 13 September 2021, the eve of the United Nations General Assembly, an open letter signed by 2185 scientists and academics from 81 countries was delivered to UN member state governments, demanding a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FF-NPT) to tackle the climate crisis at its source: fossil fuels including coal, oil, and gas.
The open letter calls on governments around the world to adopt and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, as a matter of urgency, to protect our human beings’ and future generations’ lives and livelihoods through a global, equitable phase out of fossil fuels, in line with the scientific consensus to not exceed 1.5ºC of climate warming.
At the same time, a new website – fossifueltreaty.org – was launched to collect signatures for endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. So far, more than 132,700 individuals, 101 Nobel Laureates, and over 700 civic society organizations have signed to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and call on world leaders to end fossil fuel expansion.
What is the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty?
The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a bold new concept and framework to tackle the climate crisis at a global level from supply-side of fossil fuels: phase out coal, oil, and gas faster, fairly, and forever. It is based on the experience of a similar global Treaty – the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which was agreed just over 50 years ago between 1965 and 1968.
According to its designers, the intended Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty consists of three key pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use. In other words, as stated in the open letter, the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty includes a binding of three plans:
- End new expansion of fossil fuel production,
- Phase out existing production of fossil fuels, and
- Invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy.
Who proposed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty?
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty initiative was originally proposed in a policy paper entitled “Towards a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty”, which was published in the journal Climate Policy in 2020 (VOL 20, No. 8, 1043-1054). The paper was coauthored by Peter Newell and Andrew Simms – two researchers from the University of Sussex, UK.
In the paper, the authors have not only explained the need for such a treaty and its overall aims, but also proposed both a process and principles for the sequencing of efforts across fuel types and regions based on equity and justice. They have also discussed the form an FF-NPT could take, and the key challenges it would have to overcome.
The endorsement campaign for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty was initiated and coordinated by a non-profit organization, Stand.earth – a grassroots environmental organization with offices in the United States and Canada.
Why do we need a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty?
As stated in the open letter and the policy paper, a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is imperatively needed for the following reasons:
- The scientific consensus is clear that global climate crisis is the greatest threat to human civilization and nature at present.
- The burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – is the greatest contributor to climate change, responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions annually. In addition, air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in recent years.
- To keep climate warming to below the temperature goal of 1.5ºC, as reflected in the IPCC’s special report, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be at least 45% lower by 2030. This requires an average decline in fossil fuel production of at least 6% per year between 2020-2030. However, the global fossil fuel industry is planning to increase production by 2% per year.
- The current dominant approach to tackling climate change focuses on policies that restrict the demand for fossil fuels and increase the supply of renewable energy. So far, there has been limited focus on policies aimed at constraining the production and supply of fossil fuels at the source.
- “The only way we will meet our Paris Agreement goals and transition to a net zero economy is by pulling out of fossil fuels now.”