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A message to the UNFCCC: To stop climate crimes, leave fossil fuels in the ground

“Concretely, governments have to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and to freeze fossil fuel extraction by leaving untouched 80% of all existing fossil fuel reserves.” That’s the demand in a statement signed by Naomi Klein, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and Vandana Shiva.

Leaving fossil fuels in the ground is the only way to prevent them from being burned and further contributing to climate change. Yet when the Conference of Polluters meets in Paris for its 21st meeting in less than two months’ time, keeping fossil fuels in the ground will not be on the agenda.

You can read the statement, and sign on to it yourself, by clicking on this image:

The statement comes from a book titled “Stop Climate Crimes”, edited by and Attac France. The statement targets neo-liberalism and corporations:

Decades of liberalisation of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, sceptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them.

Business as usual at the UNFCCC

Yesterday, Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (USA), the Co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) released a “Non-Paper”. This draft text is 20 pages long, down from more than 90 pages earlier this year.

Here’s a sample (click on the images for larger versions, or read the full draft text here). I bet you can’t read it aloud without laughing. Or crying.

The co-chairs’ draft goes on, in pretty much the same vein, for 20 pages.

2°C, 1.5°C or 2.7°C?

Article 2 explains the purpose of the agreement:

But later on, the text welcomes the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions that governments have been submitted so far:

Climate Action Tracker has been monitoring commitments to address climate change since 2009. Climate Action Tracker produced its latest analysis last week, and found that the INDCs, if implemented, would result in global warming of 2.7°C.[*]

Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, which is part of CAT, said in a statement:

“The INDC process has clearly led to progress, but it is clear that in Paris governments must consider formally acknowledging that their first round of climate plans for 2025 and 2030 will not hold warming below 2°C.
“They need to rapidly review these plans by no later than 2020, and revise commitments for the post 2025 period. Based on the INDCs submitted to date, locking in targets for 2030 could be catastrophic for efforts to limit warming below 2°C, so the agreement had better focus on 2025.”

Whether such a review takes place before 2020 is still open to negotiation:

Time to end the silence on fossil fuels

The words “oil” and “coal” do not appear in the co-chairs draft text. Neither fossil fuels nor subsidies get a mention. (“Forests” are mentioned once, in Article 6, on finance.)

Journalist George Monbiot and George Marshall of Climate Outreach have produced a draft paragraph that they would like to see in the Paris agreement:

“Scientific assessments of the carbon contained in existing fossil fuel reserves suggest that full exploitation of these reserves is incompatible with the agreed target of no more than 2C of global warming. The unrestricted extraction of these reserves undermines attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. We will start negotiating a global budget for the extraction of fossil fuels from existing reserves, as well as a date for a moratorium on the exploration and development of new reserves. In line with the quantification of the fossil carbon that can be extracted without a high chance of exceeding 2C of global warming, we will develop a timetable for annual reductions towards that budget. We will develop mechanisms for allocating production within this budget and for enforcement and monitoring.”

Monbiot notes that, “If something of that kind were to emerge from Paris, it will not have been a total waste of time.” The corollary, of course, is that unless something like this comes out of Paris, it will have been a total waste of time.

UPDATE – 5 November 2015: Climate Interactive’s analysis of the INDCs comes up with a figure of 3.5°C:

“The Climate Scoreboard shows the progress that national contributions (INDCs) to the UN climate negotiations will make assuming no further action after the end of the country’s pledge period (2025 or 2030). Our analysis shows that the national contributions to date, with no further progress post-pledge period, result in expected warming in 2100 of 3.5°C (with a range of uncertainty of 2.0 – 4.6°C).”

The UNFCCC is going with the 2.7°C figure. And here is Joe Romm at Climate Progress explaining why this is misleading.

Back to text ^^

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  1. I’ve studying clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels for several years now and have no doubt that they can not only stop the flow of carbon to the atmosphere, they can at the same time improve the economic well being of millions of people. The powerful people who oppose this economic development and the social justice that goes with it must be stopped. The well being of our children and grandchildren is at stake!

  2. Interesting comment from Forest Trends’ Gustavo Silva-Chávez on the draft text:

    “[This] new text has left out a significant piece of the climate change solution puzzle: forests. The land-use sector accounts for about 10 percent of annual global emissions,” said Gustavo Silva-Chávez, Program Manager for the Forest Trends’ REDD+ Expenditures Tracking Initiative (REDDX).

    “The text that will kick off negotiations in Paris needs to have clear and specific mentions of the key mitigation role that REDD+ can play, the levels of finance needed to pay countries for reducing emissions from deforestation, and a way for countries to meet a portion of their national climate commitments (also known as ‘INDCs’) by using REDD+. Previous versions mentioned REDD+ in several sections but this new version has left them out completely; this would be a grave mistake,” Silva-Chávez added, and urged forests be re-added to the text during the next negotiation session.