With fossil jobs drying up, the industry bent under a “staggering mound of debt” despite trillions in subsidies, fossil fuels responsible for 75% of the world’s past greenhouse gas emissions, and companies plotting a massive expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments must adopt a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty alongside a strengthened Paris Agreement, according to Canadian climate campaigner Tzeporah Berman and Carbon Tracker Initiative founder Mark Campanale.
“No country or community can spark an equitable energy transition on its own, and this is particularly true of those that are overly reliant on fossil fuels or that bear major debt loads,” Berman and Campanale write, in a post for Climate & Capital Media that recaps a similar release in February. But “a movement to advance a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty can advance the conversation regarding the science-based need to wind down production and provide the missing mechanism for global cooperation on an equitable transition.”
The treaty’s three pillars would be modelled on the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Don’t add to the problem, get rid of the existing threat, and accelerate an equitable transition—in this case, by increasing access to renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions and developing just transition plans.
“The treaty would increase transparency and accountability by exposing national governments, companies, and investors driving the climate emergency through the creation of a global registry of fossil fuels that would track emissions from current and proposed projects,” the two authors explain. “It would be a record of potential emissions from projects still in the planning stages, a schedule of so-called ‘unburnable carbon’ that should be kept underground.”
The registry would “link fossil fuels to supply and to the companies and people that benefit along the way” and include an Oil Exit List of companies and investors moving out of fossil fuels.
The net result of the treaty would be an “enormous benefit” to the global economy, they add. “Carbon Tracker earlier this year estimated that coal developers risk wasting more than US$600 billion because it is already cheaper, in all major markets, to generate electricity from new renewables than from new coal plants. And in the oil and gas sectors, there is a very similar picture of potentially wasted capital and unneeded projects.”
Which is why the goal for post-pandemic recovery efforts “should be ‘better than normal’ rather than ‘back to normal’,” Berman and Campanale write. “Normal just wasn’t good enough. It’s going to take transformative ideas like the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to generate the resilience, equity, and new opportunities the world so desperately needs right now.”