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Inside the diplomatic alliance to keep fossil fuels in the ground


Sheep on a road in view of mobile offshore drilling units in the Port of Cromarty Firth in Cromarty, U.K., on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — Costa Rica and Demark are spearheading efforts to build the world’s first diplomatic alliance to manage the decline of oil and gas production.

They are the co-leaders in the Initiative, also known as “Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance”, and seek to create a date that will end all oil and natural gas production. It would help countries become members of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This legally binding treaty aims to limit global heating to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is critical that the terms of the agreement are met in order to prevent an irreversible climate catastrophe.

In early November, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance will be officially launched at U.N.-brokered talks on climate change. This summit is known as COP26.

Costa Rica and Demark will continue to work together to bring an end to the production of oil and natural gas.

It comes at a time when policymakers are under intense pressure to meet the demands of the climate emergency. Burning fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, is the chief driver of the climate crisis, and yet the world’s fossil fuel dependency is expected to get even worse in the coming decades.

Minister for climate, energy, and utilities in Denmark Dan Jorgensen spoke on Thursday at an international webinar hosted by International Renewable Energy Agency. He said that the science was clear. “We cannot bargain with the nature.”

“There is no scenario in which we burn all the oil and gas that we can find and in which we stay below 2 degrees — and definitely not 1.5. We must end this practice. It’s impossible.

These are inferior technologies. While they were not inferior in last century, the advent of new alternatives has made them inferior.

Christiana Figueres

Former U.N. climate chief

Denmark pledged in December last year to end all future licensing rounds on oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and put a stop date of 2050 on oil and gas production. The relatively small European nation was at that point the biggest oil producer in all of the European Union.

Jorgensen acknowledged the difficulties of persuading other countries to join the alliance, saying, “On the one hand, it’s a big thing to ask a nation.”

Like one of my political adversaries when I suggested this in Denmark is, you’re basically saying: “So, basically, you want us not to accept free money?” Do you want us to stop buying money from the ground in order that other people can take it?

Jorgensen said, “And then I had to reply: Yes.” It is for good reasons.

Climate hypocrisy

Andrea Meza, environment and energy minister for Costa Rica, said on Thursday that some opposition political parties were pushing the country’s government to consider using oil and gas revenues to pay for their energy transition. “We know that this is not the correct path.”

Costa Rica, which is located in Central America and has a population of approximately 5 million, has not ever extracted oil. To make sure that future governments do not continue to explore fossil fuels, Costa Rica is considering a bill that would ban their current exploration.

Meza answered a question during the webinar about why other countries might consider joining the initiative. He said platforms like the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance are necessary to demonstrate that it’s possible.

Meza explained that it is only one planet. “This is not about doing things in the right way in the internal part of our countries and selling … all of the old technologies outside of our borders. It is unfair.

This is not fair.”

Getty Images Research by Nature published Sept. 9 showed that the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the world have some chance of reducing the effects of climate changes.| AFP | Getty Images

Research published in the scientific journal Nature on Sept. 9 found that the vast majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground to have some hope of preventing the worst effects of climate change.

Separately, analysis published by Carbon Action Tracker on Wednesday, showed that none of the world’s major economies are currently on track to contain global heating to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It follows a bombshell report from the influential, yet typically conservative, International Energy Agency earlier this year. If the world is to achieve net zero emissions of fossil fuels by 2050, then there can be no more oil, gas and coal development.

On January 9, 2021, environmental activists and Native Americans marched to the site of construction for Line 3’s oil pipeline. Line 3 runs from Hardisty in Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, the United States.

KEREM YUCEL | AFP | Getty Images

Denmark’s Jorgensen said it would be “impolite” to name specific countries, but described it as a “paradox” that many governments were touting their commitment to net zero by 2050 while also quietly planning to extract oil and gas to sell to others. These include, but are not limited to, Canada, Norway, the U.S., Canada and other countries.

You won’t burn it and think that others should, but oil sales to other countries will bring you money. He said that it didn’t make any sense.

Jorgensen stated that he didn’t want to ignore the fact signing up for the still-to-be revealed pledges of Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance could lead to difficult economic decisions, especially for those who are heavily dependent on oil and other gas. It is these difficult questions we have to answer that are important.

Is it possible to live in a world where this is not the case? “I don’t believe we can.

‘Inferior technologies’

Speaking alongside Denmark’s Jorgensen and Costa Rica’s Meza on Thursday, former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres addressed the urgent need for governments to dramatically scale down fossil fuel use. She cited air pollution, caused mostly by the burning of fossil fuels, which kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year.

Figueres also stated that there were strong economic reasons to move beyond oil and gasoline. “They have become inferior technologies.” Although they weren’t considered inferior in the last century, their technology has become less effective with the advent of other options.

On February 23rd, 2021, pipes to the Baltic Pipe pipeline were stacked near Noerre Nebel in Jutland. Baltic Pipe’s pipeline will bring ten million cubic meters of natural gas annually from the Norwegian North Sea gas fields to Esbjerg (on the Jutland coast).

AFP | AFP | Getty Images

An increasing number of cities banning the use of fossil fuel burning vehicles was likely to usher in “the demise of oil,” Figueres said. She said that gas production will end sooner than expected, as it is considered a transition fuel. However, this should not take more than 20-30 years, as alternative fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen “that can compete favorably”.

In summary, Figueres said the economic case, “pounding” litigation in Europe and elsewhere and a social license for these fuels that has been “completely lost,” showed that there is no more space for oil and gas production.