Photo: / Elias Tsolis Public Domain

Editorial: The fossil fuel industry must be shut down

Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide are still more than 40 billion tonnes. To stay within a 1.5 °C global temperature rise with a 50 per cent chance, according to the IPCC1, only about 500 billion tons of CO2 can be emitted from now on, and this budget will be exhausted in about 10–12 years at present annual emission levels.

That is why more and more voices are calling for a climate emergency situation, for a climate Marshall fund of at least 500 billion US dollars, an immediate phase-out of the use of fossil fuels and a transition to 100% renewable energy worldwide before 2050.

“For more than 50 years, the petroleum industry and politicians have been warned about the climate risks of burning fossil fuels. Yet the top 20 fossil fuel firms have continued to expand and have been behind a third of all carbon emissions since 1965,” the Guardian wrote in November 2019. Today, global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are still increasing – by one per cent in 2018.

The first World Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1979. Governments have been aware, since then at least, that emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global heating. Many more alarming UN reports have been published subsequently. The main problem is that for the past 50 years the fossil fuel industry and its allies in industry, politics and civil society have been using all financial means to counteract initiatives to effectively reduce GHG emissions. They have also promoted false, so-called clean, fossil fuel solutions or flexible mechanisms to undermine climate policy initiatives.

Is the situation really that bad? No, there is hope on the horizon, as civil society takes on the role of Asterix to fight against this oppression by the fossil fuel industry. Many people in civil society and environmental groups such as Climate Action Network, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, together with dedicated people in ministries, agencies, institutes and political parties, have been trying to drive through policies to reduce greenhouse gases for many years. CAN was formed in 1989 and now represents 1700 NGOs worldwide and millions of members. CAN Europe alone has 40 million members today. Thousands of actions, information and lobbying activities have been organised by this movement. Congratulations must go to CAN for fighting climate change for 30 years and for promoting a 100% renewable energy system globally latest by 2050! The Financial Times reported that investors who predicted a shift from fossil fuels to clean energy “are being richly rewarded” as solar and wind stocks outperform oil and gas “by a widening margin this year”.

There is now real hope that the United Nations and its members will finally act. 197 countries of the UN will present climate plans (NDCs) during 2020 to implement the Paris Agreement, and must lead the way to stay below the 1.5 °C target. More and more countries are introducing climate legislation with the conviction that this is the key policy tool to avoid dangerous climate change and create valuable co-benefits for humankind. Millions of new workplaces could be created in areas such as renewables and the energy-saving industry, ecological and climate friendly land-use management and the production of healthy food. The avoidance of air pollution from phasing out fossil fuels will save people from premature death (several hundred excess deaths per day in the EU alone are attributed to fossil fuels according to WHO/EEA/EASAC), forests and biodiversity will be protected and park landscapes will be created in urban areas and on degraded land to bind CO2. People now know that we can stay within the 1.5 °C target and that there will be many co-benefits. With help of climate legislation the fossil fuel industry (coal, gas and oil) must be shut down within the next 12 years!

Reinhold Pape

1IPCC SR1.5 2018, Chapter 2, Page 108



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