It is clearer than ever that the vast majority of remaining fossil fuels must remain in the ground if humanity is to prevent global temperatures breaching the 1.5C and 2C temperature goals of the Paris Agreement and avert the worst effects of global heating. A new report explores how we could establish a treaty that could lead to a fair and orderly withdrawal from fossil fuel extraction, and what might be the pathways to establishing it.
The report summarises the discussions from the inaugural Fossil Fuel Treaty Symposium convened in London by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty campaign, the University of Sussex, the University of Westminster, and the Rapid Transition Alliance. Held over two days from 28-29 September, 2022, participants included a combination of academics, lawyers, and civil society experts. The discussion focused on:
The latest UN Production Gap report revealed that governments around the world are planning to produce 110% more fossil fuels than can be burned if humanity is to prevent global temperatures breaching the 1.5C threshold. For even half a chance of keeping global heating below 1.5C, 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas reserves must remain safely in the ground. Meanwhile, a series of ‘carbon bombs’ have been planted – large scale fossil fuel projects that if detonated would destroy the prospects of keeping global heating below 2C, let alone the more ambitious 1.5C target. Crucially though, 40% of these carbon bombs have not yet reached the production stage, giving humanity a window of opportunity to safely diffuse them.
The campaign for a Fossil Fuel Treaty has entered a crucial phase of its development, with its first nation state endorsement by Vanuatu, calls for a Fossil Fuel Treaty from the Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, the Climate Minister of New Zealand, and the President of Timor Leste (an oil producing country), and a growing chorus of academics, Nobel Prize winners, health professionals, campaigners, parliamentarians, cities, and states all calling for an international framework that restricts fossil fuel production and keeps reserves in the ground.
Given this traction, it is an important time to elaborate on the mechanisms and contents a prospective Treaty could contain, the parallels and precedents that exist that shed light on pathways to a Treaty, and the form a Treaty could take.
With Nikki Reisch, Center for International Environmental Law