20 September 2023, NEW YORK– As the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Ambition Summit wraps up and the world witnesses once again the lack of commitment from the largest fossil fuel producers, Pacific governments and global climate leaders held a press conference hosted by the Republic of Vanuatu calling on nations to take concrete action to phase out fossil fuels in a way that is fair, fast and forever.
The summit represented a critical political milestone for demonstrating that there is collective global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a more equitable and just energy transition. But once again, the only ones doing real efforts to move us towards a safer climate are the ones least responsible and most harmed by the climate crisis.
At the UNSG Climate Ambition Summit High-Level Segment, Hon. Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu said, “The longer we remain addicted to fossil fuels, the longer we commit ourselves to mutual decline. Tuvalu is proud that we are working alongside our Pacific neighbours, the European Parliament, and the World Health Organisation to develop a comprehensive multilateral framework that addresses the climate crisis at its root cause. A negotiated Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty would complement the Paris Agreement and ensure a global just transition. I have faith in our collective humanity and our ability to foster global solidarity to undertake what needs to be done.”
Governor of California, Gavin Newsom said, “This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. 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.”
Gabriel Boric, President of Chile said, “The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis so we need to leave fossil fuels behind. That in very specific terms means we have to react to the greenwashing that major businesses are undertaking. They continue with that greenwashing and they’re stepping it up, and in some cases their greenwashing efforts are supported by countries. So, I’m a part of the Global South as the President of Chile and I call on us all to take them to task. We can’t simply hold up our international commitments, that’s not enough.”
According to the recently released “Planet Wreckers” report by Oil Change International, only five Global North countries — the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom — are responsible for over half of carbon dioxide pollution threatened by new oil and gas extraction between 2023 and 2050. These countries have the greatest financial means and responsibility to lead a fast and fair global phaseout of production. Instead, they are leading in jeopardising the global 1.5ºC goal.
Over the weekend, the world witnessed an unprecedented escalation of grassroots mobilizations against the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Over half a million people in every continent occupied the streets during the weekend demanding an end to oil, gas and coal in a way that is fast, fair and forever.
From Pacific nations, heavily affected by sea level rise and storms, through Mumbai to Manila, London to Nairobi, over 700 actions across 60 countries were organised between September 15tg and 17th, culminating in a march in New York City which gathered 75 thousand people on Sunday.
Ambassador Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the United Nations, said:
“Last year Vanuatu became the first country to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN General Assembly. This year, we return with the backing of our fellow Pacific nations, the European Parliament, the World Health Organisation and thousands of scientists and experts globally to develop a comprehensive multilateral framework that addresses climate change at its source – a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. We could all use more ambition now, especially for our climate and our people, we urge you all to encourage your governments to join this movement and spur on our collective action.”
Jane Fonda, actor and activist, Founder of Jane Fonda Climate PAC, said:
“I commend Secretary General Guterres for holding world leaders’ feet to the fire on ending fossil fuels. It’s shameful that President Biden refused to attend and commit to ending fossil fuels when the United States leads the world in fossil fuel production. I’m heartened by California Governor Newsom’s groundbreaking lawsuit to challenge Big Oil. It’s time for Biden to take a page from that leadership playbook and be the climate champion the planet needs.”
Tzeporah Berman, Chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said:
“We must stop throwing fuel on the fire, and the only way is by stopping new fossil fuel projects. Oil, gas and coal are a moral, financial, and political dead-end. They are more expensive, more dangerous, and less popular everywhere. International cooperation and solidarity through a Fossil Fuel Treaty would give us a global plan to phase them out in a way that is fast, fair and forever. That is why people, cities, parliamentarians and nations around the world are calling for a Fossil Fuel Treaty here in New York, and governments must heed this global call.”
Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said:
“We are reiterating our demands for all governments to take decisive bold actions for a rapid, equitable transition out of fossil fuels directly to renewable energy systems. With no loopholes, no exceptions, no false unreliable solutions that merely extend the life of fossil fuels and serve as an excuse to continue emitting greenhouse gases. The current commitments are nowhere near enough – we need new commitments and agreements including a global fossil fuel phase out plan with clear timelines and fair sharing of actions to reach real zero by 2050.”
Amanda Starbuck, member of the UNSG’s High Level Expert Group on Net Zero, said: “Today’s Climate Ambition Summit was a platform for first movers and leaders. But the most notable piece is who was NOT in the room today. We’ve heard hundreds of financial institutions claim that they are going ‘Net Zero’, but few have demonstrated real credibility and implementation – which was the price of a ticket to the summit. Last year I was one of the authors of the Integrity Matters report, which sets out the clear steps that Non-state actors need to take to be credibly aligned with Net Zero. These steps are not ‘best practice’, these are ‘what is absolutely necessary’. Financial Institutions need to immediately stop new, and phase out finance for fossil fuels. As these institutions think about publishing their transition plans, I implore them to show genuine ambition and integrity, something we witnessed from attendees today.
Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy Manager, Oil Change International, said:
“The rich countries that have historically driven the climate crisis and are continuing to expand fossil fuels were given an opportunity by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to demonstrate their commitment to the 1.5°C global warming limit. Instead, we saw cowardice and a staggering failure of climate leadership. The US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Norway, responsible for a majority of planned oil and gas extraction, either arrived empty-handed or failed to attend altogether. This is a slap in the face of the more than 600000 people who marched on all 7 continents last weekend. A slap in the face of science. A slap in the face of the people displaced and dying from escalating climate catastrophes. As wealthy nations shirk their responsibilities, real leadership comes from people and countries least responsible for and most affected by the climate crisis. World leaders must finally find the courage to agree to the end of the fossil fuel era at COP28 in Dubai, before it’s too late.”
Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa, said:
“For decades those of us living in climate vulnerable countries have been demanding a phase out of fossil fuels. Had Governments acted then, a slower phase ‘down’ approach might have been doable. But time has run out for such a sluggish approach. We are in a climate emergency and we need to act like it. Setting a phase out date for fossil fuels is the bare minimum we can expect if we want to end this self harming addiction.”
Keanu Arpels-Josiah, 18, who helped organise the March To End Fossil Fuels on Sunday with Fridays For Future NYC, said:
“The United States is the single biggest emitter of fossil fuels in history, yet we’re here at the Climate Ambition Summit and President Biden is nowhere to be seen. Instead of taking action on ending fossil fuels, he is funding and worsening the destruction of humanity and our planet through unfettered and accelerated fossil fuel expansion. He is ignoring the voices of 75,000 people who marched on Sunday in New York and millions around the world. The science, the youth, the people are clear: we need an end to fossil fuels from President Biden not accelerated fossil fuel expansion.”
Nalleli Cobo, Goldman environmental prize winner, said:
“I joined the summit’s applause when Governor Newsom from my home state of California declared that ‘the climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis.’ I’m here to tell you that fossil fuels are also a public health crisis. I have spent my life on the frontlines of oil drilling in Los Angeles, and I was diagnosed with cancer when I was just 19. Even though I have survived my cancer, I will live the rest of my life with the devastating toll of treatment which affects me every day. It’s time for President Biden to lead the way to building a healthier, safer, fairer world by phasing out fossil fuels that are devastating communities like mine and threatening the future of all life on Earth.”
Dr. Svitlana Romanko, Founder and Director of “Razom We Stand,” said:
“The energy we consume must stop being a geopolitical and climate weapon and transform into renewable and blood-free. In 2022, extremely generous public subsidies for the oil, gas and coal industries amounted to $7 trillion. They enriched the autocratic regimes well enough to continue waging conflicts including the Russian war in Ukraine, and deepen the climate crisis. This money must be diverted to power up the global renewable revolution. We demand fewer empty political promises or ambition, more action and absolute political commitment to phase out fossil fuels rapidly. An essential first step is enacting complete and transparent embargos of the current fossil fuel trade with Russia. Russian gas and oil exports worth billions allow them to buy more bombs and bullets to kill innocent Ukrainians. We have already suffered enough.”
Jean Su, energy justice director, Center for Biological Diversity, said:
“It’s unfortunate that President Biden left a gap as big as the United States at the climate ambition summit,” said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We don’t have time for the leader of the world’s largest oil and gas producer to sit out this historic summit and its call to phase out fossil fuels. The U.N. Secretary General set a clear demand for countries to establish firm plans for a fossil fuel phaseout and the U.S. simply failed. Biden should take a cue from California Governor Gavin Newsom and treat the climate crisis as the fossil fuel crisis it is. With executive powers, Biden can halt approvals of fossil fuel projects, phase out drilling on public lands and waters, and declare a climate emergency, and he needs to do it now.”