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COP27 protest

Climate campaigners from around the world demand an end to fossil fuel funding and a clean energy transition during the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on November 16, 2022. (Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images)

As COP27 Failure Looms, Climate Movement Demands: 'Phase Out All Fossil Fuels'

"This COP must be the one where fossil fuels come to an end," one organizer with the youth-led Fridays for Future movement asserted.

Brett Wilkins

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference winds down in Egypt, and with little progress apparent on key issues from loss and damage compensation to a clean energy transition, activists on Wednesday underscored the imperative to include a fossil fuel phaseout in the summit's final text and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground.

"By 2030, we need to reduce emissions by between 30% to 45%, but since COP26 we've shaved off 1%."

"Those who've traveled across the [world] to fight for 1.5°C at COP27, and their communities at home, are sick of waiting as delegates avoid, delay, and greenwash," the climate action group 350.org tweeted, referring to the Paris agreement's preferential global heating target. "We need ALL fossil fuels phased out, gas included—keep it in the ground, and keep 1.5 alive!"

As rich nations ignore pleas from campaigners and Global South stakeholders to pursue loss and damage payments to the countries that have contributed the least to—but suffer the most from—the climate emergency, and as fossil fuel interests and the governments they influence work to ensure fossil fuels are included in COP27's final decision text, activists are growing more strident in their calls to action.

"This is our rallying cry—from actions, press conferences, to side events, today is the day where we, the civil society movement, are holding governments to account and demanding that an equitable, managed, and just phaseout of all fossil fuels must be in the cover decision of COP27," 350.org executive director May Boeve said in a statement.

Climate Action Network head of global political strategy Harjeet Singh said that "we came here to demand climate justice, but we know what's happening. There are more than 630 fossil fuel lobbyists who have turned this COP into an expo, and they are making the climate crisis worse. The fossil fuel industry is directly responsible for the death and destruction we are seeing around the world and this same industry is profiting from the crisis, making obscene profits."

Inger Andersen, who heads the United Nations Environment Program, lamented that "we've barely scratched the surface" of what needs to be done to salvage 1.5°C.

"The one year since Glasgow, frankly, has been a year of climate procrastination," she added, referring to last year's COP26 conference in Scotland. "By 2030, we need to reduce emissions by between 30% to 45%, but since COP26 we've shaved off 1%. So, we have a long way to go."

According to the International Renewable Agency, just 29% of global electricity generation currently comes from renewables, while carbon emissions continue an upward trend and new fossil fuel projects are ramped up in the face of fuel shortages caused by factors including Russia's invasion of Ukraine and production decisions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Omar Elmawi, coordinator of the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) campaign, argued that it's "unacceptable to even consider huge projects" like EACOP "when rapid and deep emission cuts are needed to avoid catastrophic climate impacts."

"We do not accept that the need to address the energy crisis can be used to greenlight fossil fuel projects, including risky gas developments," Elmawi added. "This message needs to be heard, acted on, and commitments made to halt such projects. Finances should be channeled into a just transition to community-led renewable energy. We need true and real solutions for the African continent."

Fridays for Future Germany organizer Luisa Nebauer said that "this COP has turned into a fossil fuel energy theater. I can't believe that I am here, with two days left till the end of these climate talks, fighting for fossil fuel inclusion in the final text, when we know that the climate crisis is being caused by fossil fuels."

"Just because some industry leaders might be hurt when we tell them the era of fossil fuels has ended, their model does not work," she insisted. "This COP must be the one where fossil fuels come to an end."

Some countries are earnestly working toward a fossil fuel-free future. On Wednesday, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kenya, and Chile joined Italy, Finland, and Luxembourg as "friends" of the Beyond Oil and Gas (BOGA) Alliance. Launched last year by Costa Rica and Denmark at COP26 in Glasgow, BOGA—which counts 11 countries and territories as members or associate members, and now seven others as "friends"—is working "to facilitate the managed phaseout of oil and gas production."

Joseph Sikulu, 350.org's Pacific managing director, said in a statement that "the expansion of oil and gas is a threat to the existence of many small island developing states."

"The leadership shown from Tuvalu and Fiji as friends of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance comes just as our Pacific leaders fight to have the phaseout of fossil fuels included in the final text of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt," Sikulu added. "This is a David vs. Goliath fight for many of our islands, but this announcement is a resounding call that the Pacific is not standing down in the fight against oil and gas expansion."

There was a glimmer of hope Wednesday as U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said his country would support a proposal to phase down all fossil fuels, if it focused on projects with "unchecked emissions."

"It's a step in the right direction to see John Kerry state U.S. support for a fossil fuel phasedown," 350's North America director Aube Giroux said. "The nuance however is in the details and the loopholes. The U.S. delegation is making a distinction between 'abated' and 'unabated' fossil fuel projects and ramping up their desire to use carbon capture and sequestration and carbon tax credits as means to mitigate the climate crisis."

"Fundamentally that is an insufficient approach that continues to provide cover for the fossil fuel industry to continue to drill for and burn fossil fuels that are destroying our planet," Giroux continued. "If the U.S. wants to be a real leader on climate, we need to see them push real solutions including investing in solar and wind."

"The U.S. needs to incorporate a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies with no caveats," she added, "and create a mechanism for these companies to pay for the damage they've caused, reinvesting the finances into a renewable energy economy."


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