Greg Muttitt and Sivan Kartha
As COVID-19 and other factors force an unmanaged decline of oil and gas, a new peer-reviewed study by Greg Muttitt and Sivan Kartha outlines how policymakers can plan for a better future, with an equitable phase-out of fossil fuels. The paper was published in the journal Climate Policy on May 31, 2020. The PDF available on this page is the accepted manuscript.
The study examines the world’s largest fossil-fuel-producing countries and considers how an energy transition would impact their workers, communities, economies and governments. It finds a stark difference between developing countries and wealthy ones – namely, that fossil-extracting developing countries are far more dependent on oil and gas revenues and on coal mining jobs. For example: oil and gas revenues provide 60% or more of public revenues in Timor Leste, Equatorial Guinea, and Iraq, while they account for close to 0% of these revenues in the UK and US.
Based on this review, the study’s authors examined common equity approaches and propose five principles to ensure a just transition:
- Phase down global extraction consistent with 1.5°C. Countries can do this through both economic and regulatory approaches, including extraction taxes and licensing moratoria.
- Enable a just transition for workers and communities. Key elements of this principle include sound investments in low-emission sectors, social protection for fossil-fuel workers, and local economic diversification.
- Curb extraction consistent with environmental justice. Ending fossil fuel extraction should be prioritized where communities disproportionately experience the harms of extraction (such as pollution) and not the benefits.
- Reduce extraction fastest where social costs of transition are least. Wealthier, diversified economies – such as the US, Canada, UK and Norway – should phase down production quickly, as they can better mitigate and absorb the adverse impacts on workers and communities.
- Share transition costs fairly. The largest burden should be borne by those with the “broadest shoulders,” or ability to pay. In practice, this means wealthy countries – who have already benefited the most from past extraction – should bear the most cost.