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Why President Petro Emphasizes Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty at COP28

By Yemi Olakitan

President Gustavo Petro has called for a joint fossil fuel treaty amid global climate change solutions negotiations. President Petro announced that Colombia will formally join the bloc of nation-states seeking to negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The major announcement took place at a High-Level Party Event at the UN COP28 Climate Talks in Dubai that included prominent statements from the President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister of Tuvalu Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne as well as the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

According to various international reports, the dangers of fossil fuel to climate change are many and serious. Fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming.

Global warming leads to many negative impacts on the environment, such as sea level rise, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, species extinction, food scarcity, health problems and poverty. Here are some facts about fossil fuels and climate change:

Fossil fuels account for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, responsible for over 0.3C of the 1C increase in global average temperatures. Oil releases a huge amount of carbon when burned, and also causes oil spills that harm marine life.
Natural gas is still a fossil fuel and accounts for a fifth of the world’s total carbon emissions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that fossil fuel emissions must be halved within 11 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The world is currently on track to produce more than double the amount of coal, oil and gas by 2030 than we can burn if we are to limit global warming by 1.5C2.

Fossil fuel companies continue to invest in fossil fuel production and consumption, while misleading the public.

Colombia is the first Latin American country and the largest producer of coal and gas to join the growing bloc of nations spearheading the push for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The government leaders joined forces in Dubai announcing their intention to secure a negotiating mandate for a new treaty that would complement the Paris Agreement by establishing a new international mechanism to specifically manage a global just transition away from coal, oil and gas.

During his speech, Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia, declared: “It is a paradox that, at this table, together with populations that could disappear, there is a country like us, which also depends on oil, and which is committed to endorsing a treaty that implies zero new exploration projects in the world. My own society would say ‘how would the President produce such economic suicide?’, given that we depend on oil and coal. But this is not economic suicide. We are talking here about an ‘omnicide’, the risk of extinction of life on the planet. Here we are avoiding ‘omnicide’ on planet Earth.

“There is no other way, the rest are illusions. There is a very powerful economic power around oil, coal and gas. And they act to prevent changes, to maintain, in a suicidal way, their possibilities for more years of profit in the short term. Today we face an immense confrontation between fossil capital and human life. And we must choose a side. Any human being knows that we must choose life. I have no doubt which position to take: between fossil capital and life, we choose the side of life.”

Colombia’s announcement follows Palau, who endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty 24 hours earlier in a high-level address to COP28 from President Surangel Whipps Jr. With their support, 10 nation-states from four continents have joined forces in seeking the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The proposal has also gained formal support from the European Parliament, the World Health Organisation and 100 cities and subnational governments globally.

President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, said: “As a country dependent on oil and gas development, we know that international cooperation is a sine qua non condition for making a global energy transition possible, even more so if it is to be just. To make this possible requires predictable, considerable financial support from richer nations that benefited the most from decades of coal, oil and gas extraction. It is time for them to join our growing group of nation states committing to develop a plan to end the era of fossil fuels. Anything less is crocodile tears.”

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said: “We welcome with enthusiasm and gratitude Colombia’s inclusion in the bloc of nations – now nine – supporting the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. In Antigua and Barbuda and throughout our Caribbean islands, we are already witnessing the devastating impacts of climate change. The transition to clean energy sources is not simply an option; it is an urgent necessity to which Colombia seeks to respond. Its arrival in this group of pioneering nations strengthens our collective position and demonstrates growing diplomatic support for a negotiating mandate for this Fossil Fuel Treaty. With Colombia, we have just taken one more step towards a future free from oil, gas and coal.”

Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu said: “A year ago, Tuvalu brought the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to the UN Climate Talks for the first time. Today, we are proud to be part of a bloc of 10 nations from 4 continents spearheading this proposal, now including Colombia, a major producer of coal and oil, ready to leave their fossil fuel reserves in the ground. International action is the only hope we have to keep our home, our people and our cultures above the rising seas. This is not about charity but about responsibility, solidarity and justice. I urge countries of the Global North to join our growing bloc of nations seeking the negotiation of a treaty to manage a global just transition away from fossil fuels.”

Colombia’s endorsement comes at a crucial time when, on the one hand, the world is facing increasingly violent effects of climate change and, on the other hand, governments are yet to commit to a global plan to address the primary cause of this crisis: coal, oil and gas. The IPCC, IEA and UNEP all agree that it is vital to end the fossil fuel era to limit warming to 1.5ºC in order to avoid further climate chaos, with irreversible damage to humanity.

As Heads of State formally spoke at the Opening Ceremony of the COP28 High-Level Segment on Friday, the President of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr., used his plenary speech to publicly join the growing bloc of states seeking a negotiating mandate for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Surangel Whipps Jr., President of Palau, said in his high-level statement at COP28: “Our ocean feeds us, protects us, and defines us. We must protect it in return. We are witnessing the consequences of ignoring the planet’s limits—floods, droughts, heat, famine, death. The solution to the climate crisis requires everyone’s participation. Today, Palau joins Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and other nations in calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. We are sovereign countries; however we share one planet. We are stronger together, and we must unite, act and deliver to keep 1.5ºC alive!”

As a large ocean state consisting of an archipelago of 586 islands located in the Western Pacific Ocean, Palau is deeply vulnerable to the climate crisis, which poses several threats to the country. With approximately 1,500km of coastline, Palau’s main vulnerabilities involve its coastal and marine areas, given that the majority of its population, infrastructure and cultural sites are in coastal areas.

These include extreme high tides, coastal erosion, sea-level rise, increase in drought and storm activity, increased sea-surface temperature and coral bleaching. Like other Pacific Island states, this vulnerability is exacerbated by its geographical remoteness and isolation.

With this bold move, the Pacific Island state of Palau joins nine other countries – Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, the Solomon Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia and Timor-Leste – who are spearheading a push to secure a mandate to negotiate a new international mechanism to manage a phase out of fossil fuels and finance a just and equitable global transition away from oil, gas and coal.

Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Climate Change, Adaptation, Meteorology and Geo-hazards, Energy, Environment and Disaster Risk-Management for Vanuatu, said: “Colombia’s support for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a demonstration of global leadership and solidarity in the fight against a crisis that is not only affecting small island nations like mine, but the entire world. It is a reminder that although our geographies differ, we share a common destiny and a responsibility to protect our home from the ravages of oil, gas and coal proliferation.

“There are now 10 nation states seeking a new treaty and it is urgent that others join us, especially wealthy nations who have contributed the most to the problem. Instead of continuing to produce more oil, gas and coal, they must join us in becoming architects of the plan toward a fossil fuel-free future.”

Alex Rafalowicz, Director of the Treaty initiative, said: “By joining the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, Colombia, a country highly dependent on oil and coal, is demonstrating courageous leadership in the just energy transition. From COP28, President Gustavo Petro is not only making a commitment to climate justice but also highlighting the importance of international cooperation. Colombia is not alone and is now part of a group of 10 pioneering countries seeking to establish a negotiating mandate for a Fossil Fuel Treaty, the legal framework the world needs to equitably phase out oil, gas and coal.

“The support of Colombia, the ‘Global Power for Life’, brings us one step closer to the adoption of a Treaty. It is time for more countries to follow suit, first and foremost the rich nations from the Global North, which have the greatest responsibility and also the means to end the fossil age fast and fairly.”

Amarilys Llanos, representative of the Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance, said: “We welcome Colombia’s decision to join the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty as a step towards a just energy transition. However, this international commitment must be backed up by concrete actions at the national level: that is why we demand from the Colombian state a comprehensive commitment to the protection of water and territories by passing the law to ban fracking and the extraction of hydrocarbons from unconventional deposits (PL. 413/23C). Only firm decisions can ensure that Colombia is truly on the road to a fossil fuel-free future, based on a community-based, sustainable and just perspective. A yes to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty means a yes to the anti-fracking and YNC law.”

Laura Gómez, climate change expert, author of the IPCC AR6 report, said: “The science of climate change is unequivocal, and Colombia’s decision to lead the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a response to the multiple warnings of the IPCC and the entire scientific community. Our research has made it clear that to avoid even more catastrophic human and climate impacts, we cannot afford to continue extracting more oil, coal and gas.

“Colombia, in advocating for this treaty, demonstrates a deep understanding of the urgency and necessity of aligning our policies with the scientific evidence. The planet and humanity depend on decisive and collective action to stop the proliferation of fossil fuels, and Colombia is taking a crucial step in the right direction, which other countries need to follow.”

Peri Dias, Latin America representative at COP28: “Colombia’s endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, becoming the 10th nation to endorse the call, is a positive path towards a meaningful renewable energy transition. The endorsement sets a promising example for other Latin American and Global South leaders, such as Brazil, which is set to host COP30. As a result of their demands for change, Colombians are beginning to see important concrete actions by Petro and his team to end the climate crisis, unlike President Lula of Brazil, who makes bold statements about just climate action, but continues to create ties to the fossil fuel industry.”


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