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Oilwatch: “The goal now is to decide where and how to start leaving fossil fuels in the soil”

In the lead up to the UN climate conference in Paris, Oilwatch put out a statement to the UNFCCC demanding an Annex Zero, for peoples and territories that are leaving fossil fuels underground.

Oilwatch points out that the UNFCCC is happy to talk about carbon dioxide concentrations and emissions reductions, but not about the the amount of fossil fuels that should not be extracted. To stand a chance of limiting climate change to 2°C, we need to leave “at least 2/3 of the known oil, gas and carbon reserves” below ground, Oilwatch states.

The statement also demands the rejection of false solutions such as carbon markets and REDD.

    Proposal for Paris COP21, December 2015

    The purpose of this document is to present the commitments and efforts that peoples, nationalities, and communities have undertaken against the extraction of oil, gas, or coal as a contribution toward avoiding climate disaster.

    Together with these commitments we present our petition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and member governments to recognize, respect, promote, and protect these actions as a goal to protect climate and life on the planet.

    Group Annex 0: A way to recognize and respect real commitments and efforts

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, executed at the Rio Summit in 1992, divided member states in two groups: Annex I, which was composed of the industrialized countries of the North, including countries with economies in transition; and Non-Annex I, which essentially comprised the countries of the global South. Later came Annex II, which included the members of Annex I that were obliged to provide financial and technical resources to enable the countries of the South to undertake activities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Oilwatch affirms that, for the countries of Annex I and II, the motor of capitalist development since the nineteenth century has been coal, oil, and gas, for which reason the countries included in these Annexes have done everything in their power to prevent specific and binding actions to reduce the consumption of these fossil fuels. After more than 20 years of international negotiations, global warming continues to worsen with no effective and real solutions to stop it.

    In this scenario, one of the obstacles has been the direct influence that corporations linked to fossil fuels have had on the Convention’s decisions. At present this corporate sector is among the promoters of false solutions that exacerbate the greenhouse effect, such as the carbon market, agrofuels, REDD, geo-engineering, and technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) –also used by oil industry-, among others. Simultaneously, they expand their territorial reach to so-called new frontiers: deep seas and “nonconventional” deposits exploited using pernicious technologies such as fracking.

    As if this were not enough, the limited vision of the United Nations, focused on promoting negotiations between state parties, has allowed Northern industrialized countries not to comply with their climate obligations, and in an unfair and neocolonial scenario, has transferred their responsibilities to the peoples and nations of the South. Yet it is precisely in the South where one encounters the majority of the nations and subnational regions and localities, but above all the Indigenous Peoples, peasants, fisherfolk or traditional communities that are making real efforts to protect the climate, although they are the most affected by climate change. It is these popular initiatives that are being neglected and, in many cases, criminalized, when they should instead be rewarded for their efforts to stop extraction of fossil hydrocarbons.

    We can see that, in practical terms, there are other actors in addition to states that are able and willing to accelerate the transformations required to protect the global climate. These actors must be recognized by the Framework Convention on Climate Change: precisely, the Indigenous Peoples and nations, provinces, states, or subnational regions and localities that have taken firm steps against the extraction of hydrocarbons. An Annex 0 Group must therefore be created for these peoples and territories who are addressing the causes of the problem: the addiction to fossil fuels.

    It is time to focus on the problem’s determining causes

    It was mainly after World War II that the industrial bases of capitalism, addicted to fossil fuels and a culture based on an endless, extensive, expansive and destructive energetic and material consumption pattern, was consolidated. Highly oil-intensive large-scale mining and industrial agriculture expanded as part of this model. This addiction to fossils is not only affecting the climate, but is causing degenerative and lethal diseases to millions of peoples, flooding the planet with non-degradable waste, and exterminating hundreds of traditional cultures – by displacing healthy and ecological uses and customs – and it continues generating economic, social, political, environmental crisis aimed to capital expansion and accumulation. An institutionalized and global capitalism with the most decadent and lethal features demands a global action to confront it.

    Meanwhile, the business and financial sectors decide how much oil is extracted, from where, what type, how much is sold, and at what price, as the industry continues to advance using more costly and environmentally degradating techniques, like fracking, to maintain dependence on fossil fuels, and strengthen the process of capital accumulation, appropriation of indigenous territories, disposession, and violation of the rights of the people.

    Leaving oil and other fossil fuels in the subsoil is the most direct and concrete way of achieving results related to climate, as well as to confront capitalism, the exploitation of human beings, and privatization of nature at the global level.

    What metrics, scenarios, and models should we work with?

    The member states of UNFCCC set the goal of adopting a new global agreement on climate change in Paris 2015. The rhetoric says that is aimed to keep the planet from exceeding the warming limit of 2°C in relation to preindustrial temperature. This limit allegedly sets the line between a changing climate to which we can adapt and a climate unbalance of unforeseeable and irreversible consequences.

    To reach this figure, both UNFCCC and the experts of the Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have always used carbon dioxide concentrations as a standard measure stating emission reduction but not the amount of fossil fuels that should not be extracted. However, talking about amounts of oil, gas, or carbon would enable visualizing the responsibilities and necessary actions to prevent a climate crisis.

    According to official figures, to reach a maximum figure of 2°C in temperature (IPCC scenario RCP2.6) by 2100, at least 2/3 of the known oil, gas and carbon reserves should remain in the soil. Therefore, of the 1,7 trillion barrels that are still in the ground, 1,190,000 million should remain there; of the 187 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, 131 trillion should not be extracted; and of the 892,000 million tons of coal, 624.000 should remain in place. The goal now is to decide where and how to start leaving them in the soil. By using these figures we are not attempting a merchandisable quantification or evil equivalences in the environmental services market or other ways of commercial compensation, but a way of determining the magnitude of the efforts needed for a post-oil civilization.

    This means going from a centralized large-scale energy production model to models with cleaner, renewable, decentralized, diverse, sovereign, and ecological energies. To this end, there is a need of changing the concept of energy, which includes knowing what type, how much and who needs it, as well as a reflection on energies in the territories and for the peoples.

    Protection, recognition, and incentives for the countries, nations, subnational spaces, localities, and territories of Annex 0.

    The initiatives qualified as part of Annex 0 must be protected and supported with a series of international incentives and recognitions based on solidarity, unattached technological exchange, and the existence of an ecological debt associated to climate. The creation of Annex 0 will also incentivize new commitments and specific efforts focused on confronting the decisive causes of climate change.

    The indicators for these initiatives will be:

    1. Fossil hydrocarbons maintained in the ground
    2. Forms of life based on a respectful dialogue with nature
    3. Struggles against coal and other mining due to their effect on the climate and for consuming elevated amounts of fossil fuels
    4. Steady steps towards a debate on the type of energies required – for what, for whom, how much – and on the exercise of sovereignty of the peoples and territories
    5. Rejection of mechanisms such as the carbon market, REDD+, and other false solutions to climate change
    6. Clear commitments to non-extraction and emancipation from fossil fuels


    Protection of the peoples and territories:

    • Stop the criminalization of whoever promotes leaving oil, gas, or coal in the ground, and active advocates of land and territories against fossil fuel extraction.
    • Stop the intervention of corporations, State repression systems, and invasion of territories for hydrocarbon extraction in places where the local population rejects it, areas designated as natural or highly fragile reserves.

    Recognition through an international award:

    • for whoever makes sound steps against hydrocarbons extraction in their lands and territories;
    • for whoever keeps sovereign energy and food models that do not depend on fossil fuels and respect nature.

    Incentives such as:

    • technological exchange
    • forms of contribution and direct support that respect sovereignty, with good-faith dialogues and no transfer of responsibilities.

    Counter-incentives such as:

    • withdrawal of State subsidies to the fossil fuel industry
    • divest in shares, bonds, or investment funds linked to oil.



    OILWATCH believes that no country is really ready to withstand catastrophic climate change. Additionally, the nations that suffer the worst consequences contribute less to global warming, and frequently take strong measures to stop it. We believe that the time has come for the United Nations to confront the climate crisis by creating Annex 0 in the Convention on Climate Change, as a group of peoples or nations acknowledged for their contributions, and as an incentive for others to join the mission of leaving fossil fuels in the ground. We’ve had enough talk about abstract things like CO2 emissions – let’s talk about oil, gas, or coal, join the commitments of Annex 0, and make efforts in our organizations to support these resistance initiatives and struggles.

    We call on the United Nations, national governments, and social organizations and movements to acknowledge, protect, and disseminate commitments and efforts that truly contribute towards preventing climate disaster!


    COP21. Paris, December 2015


    Design and illustration: Angie Vanessita –


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