Break­ing free from fos­sil fu­els

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

There has never been a bet­ter time to break free from fos­sil fu­els. Record-break­ing global tem­per­a­tures, plum­met­ing fos­sil-fuel prices, his­toric in­vest­ments in re­new­able en­ergy, and global pres­sure to hon­our cli­mate pledges are all com­ing to­gether to cre­ate the ideal set­ting for this world-chang­ing shift.

The shift could not be more ur­gent. The United Na­tions cli­mate agree­ment forged in Paris last De­cem­ber re­con­firmed the level of 2C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els as a hard up­per limit for global warm­ing, be­yond which the con­se­quences for the planet be­come cat­a­strophic. But it also in­cluded com­mit­ments to “pur­sue ef­forts” to limit warm­ing to 1.5C. Judg­ing by the lat­est data pub­lished by NASA, achiev­ing that lower limit should be viewed as an im­per­a­tive.

The new data con­firm that 2015 was the hottest year on record, and show that the global run of record-break­ing tem­per­a­tures con­tin­ued through the first two months of this year. Ac­cord­ing to NASA, global tem­per­a­tures in Fe­bru­ary were 1.35C above av­er­age, based on a 1951-1980 base­line.

For­tu­nately, the priv­i­leged po­si­tion of fos­sil fu­els al­ready seems to be weak­en­ing. In fact, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA), global green­house-gas emis­sions and eco­nomic growth have al­ready de­cou­pled, with global en­ergy-re­lated CO2 (the largest source of hu­man green­house-gas emis­sions) hav­ing re­mained at the same level for the sec­ond year in a row. This means that fos­sil fu­els are no longer the lifeblood of our econ­omy.

It seems that the pre­cip­i­tous de­cline in oil prices – by twothirds over the last 18 months – has not, as many feared, en­cour­aged in­creased con­sump­tion. What it has done is deal a ma­jor blow to the prof­its of fos­sil-fuel gi­ants like Shell, BP, and Sta­toil.

Coal is not far­ing any bet­ter. Fol­low­ing China’s an­nounced mora­to­rium on new coal-fired power plants at the end of last year, Pe­abody, the world’s largest coal com­pany, re­cently filed for bankruptcy pro­tec­tion in the US, af­ter it could no longer make its debt pay­ments, partly be­cause of wan­ing de­mand for coal.

Mean­while, re­new­able en­ergy sources are re­ceiv­ing record amounts of in­vest­ment – some $329.3 bil­lion last year, ac­cord­ing to re­search from Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance. As a re­sult, a cleaner, fairer, and more sus­tain­able fu­ture, pow­ered en­tirely by re­new­ables, is start­ing to be­come a real op­tion.

Yet there is still a long way to go. Most govern­ments are still cling­ing, to vary­ing de­grees, to de­struc­tive fos­sil fu­els, with their volatile prices and dev­as­tat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, even as this de­pen­dence desta­bilises their economies.

Those com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing cli­mate change – from in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to in­di­vid­ual citizens – must ur­gently build on the mo­men­tum ac­quired over the last year, by main­tain­ing strong pres­sure on govern­ments and com­pa­nies to pur­sue the poli­cies and in­vest­ments needed to com­plete the break from fos­sil fu­els. Just as a warm­ing planet puts us all at risk, scal­ing up ac­tion early ben­e­fits ev­ery­one. And it is up to ev­ery­one to hold lead­ers ac­count­able to their prom­ises, and to sci­ence.

Global move­ments such as Break Free have been ex­em­plary in this re­gard. By back­ing cam­paigns and mass ac­tions aimed at stop­ping the world’s most dan­ger­ous fos­sil­fuel projects – from coal plants in Turkey and the Philip­pines, to mines in Ger­many and Aus­tralia, to frack­ing in Brazil, and oil wells in Nige­ria – Break Free hopes to elim­i­nate the power and pol­lu­tion of the fos­sil-fuel in­dus­try, and pro­pel the world to­ward a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

Rec­og­niz­ing the scale and ur­gency of the chal­lenge ahead, Break Free is pre­pared to in­ten­sify its peace­ful re­sis­tance against new and ex­ist­ing fos­sil-fuel projects. The key will be the strength and brav­ery of com­mu­ni­ties de­mand­ing that we keep fos­sil fu­els in the ground and in­stead build a health­ier and more just world, in which ev­ery­one has ac­cess to sus­tain­able en­ergy.

The world is clos­ing in on a his­toric shift in our en­ergy sys­tem. To ac­cel­er­ate progress, we must con­front those who are prof­it­ing from cli­mate change and de­fend the in­ter­ests of or­di­nary peo­ple. Next month’s mo­bil­i­sa­tions against fos­sil­fuel projects are an im­por­tant step in the right di­rec­tion. The strug­gle fi­nally to break free from fos­sil fu­els is a global one. No­body can af­ford to ig­nore it.

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