As climate scientists stress that climate change has contributed to the enormous size and strength recent storms including Hurricane Irma, which has killed at least ten people in the Caribbean and left the island of Barbuda "uninhabitable" as it heads toward Florida, a coalition of more than 220 organizations called for a "managed decline of fossil fuel production" on Thursday, with an immediate end to new oil, gas, and coal development.
"Leadership must come from countries that are high-income, have benefitted from fossil fuel extraction, and that are historically responsible for significant emissions."—The Lofoten Declaration
The Lofoten Declaration, named for an archipelago in Norway where drilling by the oil industry has been successfully blocked by environmental groups, demands "unprecedented action to avoid the worst consequences of our dependence on oil, coal, and gas." The document notes that new oil and gas exploration and production are "incompatible with limiting global warming to well below 2ºC," the stated goal of the Paris climate agreement of 2016, and that countries that do not embrace clean energy will soon be left behind:
A global transition to a low carbon future is already well underway. Continued expansion of oil, coal, and gas is only serving to hinder the inevitable transition while at the same time exacerbating conflicts, fueling corruption, threatening biodiversity, clean water and air, and infringing on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable communities...
This task should be first addressed by countries, regions, and corporate actors who are best positioned in terms of wealth and capacity to undergo an ambitious just transition away from fossil fuel production. In particular, leadership must come from countries that are high-income, have benefitted from fossil fuel extraction, and that are historically responsible for significant emissions.
The Lofoten Declaration has been signed by climate science and environmental advocacy groups from 55 countries around the world who aim to close the gap between efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and those that focus on cutting fossil fuel production. As Hannah McKinnon wrote at Oil Change International:
While great attention has been paid to the demand side: 'how do we reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions?', much less has been paid to the supply side: 'how do we rein in production of fossil fuels that the climate can’t afford?'...The result is a dangerous imbalance. An imbalance that allows many fossil fuel producing countries (think Norway, Canada, the U.K. etc.), to insist they are showing climate leadership all the while they are continuing to explore, expand, and exploit massive fossil fuel reserves with no meaningful plan for how they are going to stop it in line with safe climate limits.
The signers of the Lofoten Declaration aim to put pressure on developed countries that can afford to implement meaningful change in how they produce energy, to take action that could benefit nations around the world—including the small island nations like those in the Caribbean that stand to sustain some of the most serious destruction as climate change brings increasingly severe weather patterns.