Tuvaluan Prime Minister Kausea Natano speaks in Hamburg

Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, speaks during a press conference after a hearing at the International Tribual for the Law of the Seas on September 11, 2023 in Hamburg, Germany.

(Photo: Gregor Fischer/AFP via Getty Images)

While Top Polluters Dither, Pacific Island Nations Lead Push for Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty

"The longer we remain addicted to fossil fuels, the longer we commit ourselves to mutual decline," Tuvaluan Prime Minister Kausea Natano said at the U.N. Climate Ambition Summit.

As heads of climate-wrecking nations like the United States, China, and Britain declined to attend Wednesday's United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in New York, leaders of Pacific island and other Global South countries renewed the push for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty.

The government of Tuvalu is working with neighbors Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, and the self-governing New Zealand territory of Niue—all signatories to the Port Vila Call, a framework to a just transition to a fossil-free Pacific—and global partners to draft a FFNPT.

"The longer we remain addicted to fossil fuels, the longer we commit ourselves to mutual decline," Tuvaluan Prime Minister Kausea Natano said at the summit. "A negotiated fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty would complement the Paris agreement and ensure a global just transition.

"We've proven we can mobilize our collective ambition at the multilateral level. The scale of the challenge we face can now only be met with an even greater level of ambition and cooperation," he added. "I traveled thousands of miles over four days to be here today, because I believe in international cooperation and multilateralism. I have faith in our collective humanity and our ability to foster global solidarity to undertake what needs to be done."

Launched in 2020 and backed by hundreds of groups, thousands of scientists, and people around the world from youth to grandparents, the FFNPT is based on three pillars:

  • Ending expansion of new coal, oil, or gas production in line with the best available science;
  • Phasing out the production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable; and
  • Ensuring a global just transition to 100% access to renewable energy globally.

In addition to the aforementioned nations, the country of East Timor, the European Parliament, and the World Health Organization have called for a FFNPT. Scores of cities and other subnational governments have also endorsed the FFNPT, including London, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, Toronto, and the Hawaiian Legislature.

Earlier this month, California became the largest economy in the world to endorse the treaty.

"This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis," Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at Wednesday's summit. "It's not complicated. It's the burning of oil. It's the burning of gas. It's the burning of coal. And we need to call that out. For decades and decades, the fossil fuel industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools."

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, another supporter of the treaty, said during Wednesday's summit that "the real goal that all countries should have is aiming for zero production and supply of carbon gas and oil. If we don't aim for that as our overarching goal, life will not be saved."

"If we keep on our current track it will be suicide," he added. "We live on coal and gas exports, but if we don't change course it will mean death because those industries are polluting the atmosphere. Fossil capital is a burden for humankind. Fossil fuel subsidies need to be completely eliminated worldwide. That would give us a prospect for the future."

Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty Initiative, said at a press conference Wednesday that "today was a turning point... A growing block of countries is calling for a FFNPT that would ensure an end to expansion of oil, gas, and coal projects, and cooperation on a plan for a managed wind-down that is fast, fair, and financed."

The climate action group Oil Change International blasted what it called wealthy nations' "display of inaction and indifference."

"The handful of rich countries driving oil and gas expansion failed to answer United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' call for an end to new fossil fuel production," the group noted. "These countries, with the greatest financial means and responsibility to lead a fast and fair global phaseout of production, are instead leading in jeopardizing the global 1.5°C goal."

"Five Global North countries—the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom—are responsible for 51% of carbon dioxide pollution threatened by new oil and gas extraction between 2023 and 2050," Oil Change continued. "If these planet-wreckers were to heed the United Nations secretary-general's call to halt new oil and gas, we could prevent a staggering 100 billion tons of carbon pollution from entering our atmosphere, equivalent to the lifetime emissions of over 620 new coal plants."

"In contrast, countries like Chile, Denmark, France, and Tuvalu were invited to speak at the summit," the group added, "as they have halted fossil fuel expansion and financing as needed to align with 1.5°C."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.