NEW YORK — In a display of inaction and indifference, the handful of rich countries driving oil and gas expansion failed to answer United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’s call for an end to new fossil fuel production. Lacking the climate leadership necessary to participate, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Australia were excluded from speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit today. Canada, while allowed to speak, did not contribute any significant phaseout plans apart from recommitting to end its international public finance for fossil fuels. 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 1.5ºC goal.

The Summit comes in the wake of historic global mass mobilization to end fossil fuels. Over 600 000 people on all seven continents took action, culminating in a 75 000-person march in New York City, sending a clear message to U.S. President Joe Biden to stop the expansion of and phase out fossil fuels. The recently released “Planet Wreckers” report exposed these 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. 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 tonnes 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, as they have halted fossil fuel expansion and financing as needed to align with 1.5ºC. 

The Climate Ambition Summit was intended to be the last high-profile gathering for countries ahead of COP28 and an opportunity to present new climate plans and policies to shift away from fossil fuels. Now, with 10 weeks left before Dubai, global leaders must answer the urgent call to stop the biggest driver of the climate crisis before it’s too late. 

Romain IOUALALEN, Oil Change International Global Policy Manager, 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 1.5ºC global warming limit. Instead, we saw cowardice and a staggering failure of climate leadership. The United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, 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 600 000 people who marched on all seven 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.”

Allie Rosenbluth, Oil Change International United States Program Manager, said:
“Last weekend 75 000 people joined together in the streets of New York City ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit to demand President Biden meet the Summit’s expectations by stopping fossil fuel approvals and developing a plan for an equitable phaseout. Instead, Biden failed to meet the basic bar for climate leadership and isn’t here. The United States is the largest oil and gas producer and largest historical climate polluter, accounting for over one-third of planned global oil and gas expansion through 2050. Biden has also broken promises to stop propping up fossil fuels with public money internationally, approving a total of USD 1.5 billion for four projects so far this year. If Biden wants to be the ‘climate president’ he claims to be and protect those most impacted by the climate crisis and environmental injustice, the first step is to get serious about ending fossil fuels.”