Academics from 81 nations call for Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

Polluting coal to remain predominant fuel in India's energy basket.(
Representational image: IANS

New Delhi: Over 2,000 academics across disciplines and from 81 countries have delivered a letter demanding a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to manage a global phase out of coal, oil and gas to governments gathering at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday.

In the open letter, the academics have recognised that burning of coal, oil and gas is the greatest contributor to climate change, responsible for almost 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution.

Furthermore, they noted that, "air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost one in five deaths worldwide in 2018".

Despite this, national governments, including the COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) hosts themselves, plan to expand fossil fuel production at levels that would result in around 120 per cent more emissions than what is in keeping with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

Signatory Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, President of the Club of Rome, said: "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. We no longer have time to lose."

The letter comes on the heels of last month's IPCC report, which was heralded as a "death knell" for the fossil fuel industry by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and revealed that 86 per cent of CO2 emissions in the last decade are from the burning of fossil fuels.

Signatory Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Penn State University, said that "it's time to bring an end to the age of fossil fuels".

Signatory Peter Kalmus, NASA Climate Scientist, noted that "this is a global emergency so it requires global coordination to quickly eliminate the immediate cause: deadly fossil fuels".

The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is critically needed to facilitate the international cooperation required to manage a fair and fast global transition away from coal, oil and gas.

The letter states: "Given the significant historical contribution of fossil fuels to climate change, and the industry's continuing expansion plans, we are calling for a solution commensurate with the scale of the problem.

"Phasing down coal, oil and gas in line with 1.5 degrees Celsius requires global cooperation, in a way that is fair, equitable and reflects countries' levels of dependence on fossil fuels, and capacities to transition. This, in turn, should be underpinned by financial resources, including technology transfer, to enable a just transition for workers and communities in developing countries and a decent life for all."

The open letter outlines the academics' call to world leaders to initiate a new chapter of international cooperation on climate change via a mechanism to complement the Paris Agreement that would end new expansion of fossil fuel production in line with the best available science as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Environment Programme.

Also phase out existing production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the respective dependency of countries on fossil fuels, and their capacity to transition.

The open letter call for an investment in a transformational plan to ensure 100 per cent access to renewable energy globally, support fossil fuel-dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels, and enable people and communities across the globe to flourish through a global just transition.

Rebecca Byrnes, Deputy Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: "The world's leading scientists could not be clearer -- coal, oil and gas are the primary cause of the climate crisis and are responsible for nearly one in every five deaths worldwide.

"Any 'net zero' policy that allows for the continued expansion of these weapons of mass destruction is insufficient. Just as governments came together to phase out ozone depleting chemicals, or end the proliferation of nuclear weapons, they must now urgently negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty."

In April, Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, along with 100 fellow Nobel laureautes from different fields had expressed their concern over the climate crisis and the commensurate destruction of nature ahead of the US President Joe Biden's Leaders' Climate Summit.

"Climate change is threatening hundreds of millions of lives and livelihoods across every continent and it is putting thousands of species at risk. The burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, is by far the major contributor to climate change," they had said.

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