In an open letter thousands of academics and scientists from around the world are urging governments to negotiate an international treaty to bring about a rapid and just transition away from coal, oil, and gas—"the main cause of the climate emergency."
Characterizing the climate crisis as "the greatest threat to human civilization and nature," the letter notes that "the burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—is the greatest contributor to climate change, responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution."
The 2,185 experts from 81 countries write: "We, the undersigned, call on governments around the world to adopt and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, as a matter of urgency, to protect the lives and livelihoods of present and future generations through a global, equitable phase out of fossil fuels in line with the scientific consensus to not exceed 1.5ºC of warming."
Alluding to nuclear treaties created to reduce the threats posed by atomic weapons, the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative argues that swiftly phasing out fossil fuel production and expediting the transition to cleaner and healthier alternatives requires "unprecedented international cooperation in three main areas—non-proliferation, global disarmament, and a peaceful, just transition."
"Air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in 2018," says the letter, which emphasizes that while the negative impacts "derived from the extracting, refining, transporting, and burning of fossil fuels... are often borne by vulnerable and marginalized communities," coal, oil, and gas corporations "concentrat[e] power and wealth into the hands of a select few, bypassing the communities in which extraction occurs."
"The world's leading scientists could not be clearer," said Rebecca Byrnes, deputy director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. "Coal, oil, and gas are the primary cause of the climate crisis and are responsible for nearly one in every five deaths worldwide."
"This is a global emergency," NASA climate scientist and signatory Peter Kalmus said in a statement. "It requires global coordination to quickly eliminate the immediate cause: deadly fossil fuels."
The researchers' letter calls for the development of a new treaty that establishes "a binding global plan" to:
End new expansion of fossil fuel production in line with the best available science as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme;
Phase out existing production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the respective dependency of countries on fossil fuels, and their capacity to transition; and
Invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy globally, support fossil fuel-dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels, and enable people and communities across the globe to flourish through a global just transition.
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