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'If a House Is on Fire, You Don't Add Fuel': 530 Groups Back Call to Rapidly Phase Out Fossil Fuels Worldwide

Widespread support for the Lofoten Declaration comes as world leaders meet in NYC for the U.N. Climate Action Summit.

house on fire

A home burns as the River Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex, moves through the area on July 31, 2018 in Lakeport, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The environmental group Stand.earth announced on Monday that 530 organizations have signed on to the Lofoten Declaration, which calls for rapidly phasing out fossil fuels on a global scale and transitioning to clean energy, as world leaders and activists gathered in New York City for the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

"True leadership in response to the climate emergency means having the courage to commit to ending the expansion of oil and gas production and make a plan to transition communities and workers to better opportunities."
—Catherine Abreu, Climate Action Network

"If a house is on fire, you don't add fuel. True leadership in response to the climate emergency means having the courage to commit to ending the expansion of oil and gas production and make a plan to transition communities and workers to better opportunities," said Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network, one of the hundreds of groups from 76 countries backing the declaration.

Drafted by academics, analysts, and activists at a conference in Norway's Lofoten Islands in 2017, the declaration says in part that "global climate change is a crisis of unprecedented scale, and it will take unprecedented action to avoid the worst consequences of our dependence on oil, coal, and gas. Equally as critical as reducing demand and emissions is the need for immediate and ambitious action to stop exploration and expansion of fossil fuel projects and manage the decline of existing production in line with what is necessary to achieve the Paris climate goals."

"It is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production," continues the declaration, which highlights major scientific findings and expresses support for frontline communities already enduring consequences of the climate crisis. "We call on these governments and companies to recognize that continued fossil fuel exploration and production without a managed decline and a just transition is irreconcilable with meaningful climate action."

In spite of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists about the impacts of fossil fuels as well as mounting calls from the public for world leaders to pursue bolder policies to drive down planet-warming emissions and combat the human-caused climate crisis—including the millions of people who took to the streets across the globe last week for a youth-led climate strike—the oil and gas industry continues to expand.

Over the next five years, according to Stand.earth, the fossil fuel industry plans to spend $1.4 trillion to boost production around the world, which will result in an additional 92 gigatonnes of carbon pollution and further decrease the likelihood that the international community can meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2100 to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

"Everyone knows the world must dramatically reduce production and emissions of fossil fuels if we are going to have a safe climate. Yet everyone continues to argue that their oil and gas expansion fits within a global plan. The math doesn't work," Tzeporah Berman of Stand.earth said Monday. "Expansion of oil and gas threatens us all and we need to stop pretending the solution is a technological fix and stop expansion by regulating production globally."

Alex Doukas of Oil Change International, which also supports the declaration, noted that "with the transition to clean energy well underway, a growing number of investors see oil and gas projects as a bad investment."

The global movement that pressures institutions and governments to divest from the oil and gas industry recently celebrated a major milestone, revealing earlier this month that campaigners have secured divestment commitments from more than 1,110 institutions with over $11 trillion in assets. However, despite these strides in divestment, world governments keep pouring billions of dollars of subsidies into propping up the fossil fuel industry.

"We're in the midst of a climate emergency," said Doukas, "and [the] massive surge in climate activism makes it increasingly untenable for financiers to continue wasting money on an oil and gas industry that ultimately needs to disappear if we're serious about climate action."

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Read the Lofoten Declaration: Climate Leadership Requires a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production in full below:

Global climate change is a crisis of unprecedented scale, and it will take unprecedented action to avoid the worst consequences of our dependence on oil, coal, and gas. Equally as critical as reducing demand and emissions is the need for immediate and ambitious action to stop exploration and expansion of fossil fuel projects and manage the decline of existing production in line with what is necessary to achieve the Paris climate goals.

Clean, safe, and renewable fuels are already redefining how we see energy and it is time for nations to fully embrace 21st century energy and phase out fossil fuels.

The Lofoten Declaration affirms that it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.

We stand in solidarity with, and offer our full support for, the growing wave of impacted communities around the world who are taking action to defend and protect their lives and livelihoods in the face of fossil fuel extraction and climate change. It is a priority to elevate these efforts. Frontline communities are the leaders we must look to as we all work together for a safer future.

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, fuelling corruption, threatening biodiversity, clean water and air, and infringing on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable communities.

Energy access and demand are and must now be met fully through the clean energies of the 21st century. Assertions that new fossil fuels are needed for this transformation are not only inaccurate; they also undermine the speed and penetration of clean energy.

We recognize that a full transition away from fossil fuels will take decades, but also, that this shift is an opportunity more than a burden. We are in a deep hole with climate. We must begin by not digging ourselves any deeper.

Research shows that the carbon embedded in existing fossil fuel production will take us far beyond safe climate limits. Thus, not only are new exploration and new production incompatible with limiting global warming to well below 2ºC (and as close to 1.5ºC as possible), but many existing projects will need to be phased-out faster than their natural decline.

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.

We call on these governments and companies to recognize that continued fossil fuel exploration and production without a managed decline and a just transition is irreconcilable with meaningful climate action. We also note that there are tremendous leadership opportunities for these countries to demonstrate that moving beyond oil, coal, and gas—both demand and production—is not only possible, but can be done while protecting workers, communities, and economies.

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