Cli­mate lead­er­ship means end­ing fos­sil-fuel pro­duc­tion

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

And yet some­how, the ques­tion cen­tral to be­ing se­ri­ously ad­dressed: what is the plan our­selves off oil, coal, and gas?

That ques­tion is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ur­gent, be­cause gov­ern­ments around the world, from Ar­gentina to In­dia to Nor­way, are sup­port­ing plans to con­tinue pro­duc­ing fos­sil fu­els and ex­plore for more. These gov­ern­ments claim that new fos­sil-fuel pro­jects are con­sis­tent with their com­mit­ments un­der the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, de­spite the fact that burn­ing even the fos­sil fu­els in al­ready-ex­ist­ing re­serves would push global tem­per­a­tures higher than 2C above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els – and thus far be­yond the thresh­old es­tab­lished in that ac­cord. It is a star­tling dis­play of cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance.

The re­al­ity is that lim­it­ing fos­sil-fuel pro­duc­tion to­day is es­sen­tial to avoid con­tin­ued en­trench­ment of en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture and po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics that will make shift­ing away from fos­sil fu­els later more dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive. Im­por­tant ques­tions about eq­uity will arise: Who gets to sell the last bar­rel of oil? Who pays for the tran­si­tion to re­new­ables? And who com­pen­sates af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and work­ers? But, ul­ti­mately, these ques­tions must be ad­dressed, within a broader con­text of cli­mate jus­tice.

Cli­mate change has been called the moral chal­lenge of our age. This year alone, the world has faced un­prece­dented floods, hur­ri­canes, wild­fires and droughts on vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­ti­nent. Yet, the real storm is yet to come. If we are to avoid its most dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts, phas­ing out coal – cli­mate killer num­ber one – will not be enough. A safe cli­mate fu­ture re­quires end­ing the age of Big Oil.

The good news is that so­cial change is not a grad­ual, lin­ear process. Rather, it of­ten hap­pens in waves, char­ac­terised by “tip­ping point” mo­ments brought on by the con­flu­ence of tech­no­log­i­cal progress, fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives, it all is not for wean­ing po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, pol­icy change, and, most im­por­tant, so­cial mo­bil­i­sa­tion. We seem to be clos­ing in on just such a mo­ment.

For starters, tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing faster than any­one thought pos­si­ble. Twenty years ago, when we started work­ing on cli­mate is­sues, we sent faxes, made phone calls from land­lines, and de­vel­oped photos taken on 35mm film in dark­rooms. An­other 20 years from now, we will be liv­ing in a world that is pow­ered by the sun, the waves and the wind.

More­over, pop­u­lar op­po­si­tion to fos­sil-fuel de­vel­op­ment is mount­ing, gen­er­at­ing po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and fi­nan­cial and le­gal risks. Or­di­nary peo­ple ev­ery­where have been work­ing hard to halt pro­jects in­con­sis­tent with a cli­mate-safe fu­ture, whether by protest­ing against the Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line in the United States or the Kin­der Mor­gan Trans Moun­tain Pipe­line Sys­tem in Canada; by join­ing the block­ade by “kay­ac­tivists” of drilling rigs in the Arc­tic; or by us­ing lo­cal ref­er­enda to stop oil and min­ing pro­jects in Colom­bia.

Re­cently, over 450 or­gan­i­sa­tions from more than 70 coun­tries signed the Lo­foten Dec­la­ra­tion, which ex­plic­itly calls for the man­aged de­cline of the fos­sil-fuel sec­tor. The dec­la­ra­tion de­mands lead­er­ship from those who can af­ford it, a just tran­si­tion for those af­fected, and sup­port for coun­tries that face the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges.

Wealthy coun­tries should lead the way. Nor­way, for ex­am­ple, is not just one of the world’s rich­est coun­tries; it is also the sev­enth-largest ex­porter of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, and it con­tin­ues to per­mit ex­plo­ration and de­vel­op­ment of new oil and gas fields. Pro­posed and prospec­tive new pro­jects could in­crease the amount of emis­sions Nor­way en­ables by 150%.

If Nor­way is to ful­fill its pro­claimed role as a leader in in­ter­na­tional cli­mate dis­cus­sions, its gov­ern­ment must work ac­tively to re­duce pro­duc­tion, while sup­port­ing af­fected work­ers and com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the tran­si­tion. Canada, an­other wealthy coun­try that con­sid­ers it­self a cli­mate leader yet con­tin­ues to pur­sue new oil and gas pro­jects, should do the same.

Some coun­tries are al­ready mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has in­tro­duced a bill to phase out all oil and gas ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion in France and its overseas ter­ri­to­ries by 2040; the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment has banned frack­ing al­to­gether; And, Costa Rica now pro­duces the vast ma­jor­ity of its elec­tric­ity with­out oil. But the real work is yet to come, with coun­tries not only can­cel­ing plans for new fos­sil-fuel in­fra­struc­ture, but also wind­ing down ex­ist­ing sys­tems.

A fos­sil-free econ­omy can hap­pen by de­sign or by de­fault. If we build it pur­pose­fully, we can ad­dress is­sues of eq­uity and hu­man rights, en­sur­ing that the tran­si­tion is fair and smooth, and that new en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture is eco­log­i­cally sound and demo­crat­i­cally con­trolled. If we al­low it sim­ply to hap­pen on its own, many ju­ris­dic­tions will be stuck with

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.