“The violence of fossil fuels must come to an end to save life on Earth,” said one campaigner.
Over 520 organizations told President Joe Biden on Wednesday to urgently “end the fossil fuel era” and commit to a rapid renewable energy transition rooted in justice and a more peaceful world.
“This is the opportunity of our lifetimes to stop the violence of fossil fuels and build a new era of peace and justice to confront the climate crisis.”
The demand was delivered in a letter that points to a “cascade of emergencies” currently facing humanity including the climate crisis and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which “share the same dangerous thread: dependence on fossil fuels.”
“Russia’s invasion into Ukraine is fueled by their fossil fuel extraction power, and the world’s reliance upon it,” the signatories, including global groups like Climate Action Network International and 350.org, wrote.
The letter declares that “war makes it more apparent that fossil fuel dependence puts people at risk and makes energy systems insecure” and points to fossil fuel extraction and combustion’s wide-ranging adverse impacts from driving the biodiversity crisis to causing deaths worldwide.
In order “to preserve a livable planet,” the letter outlines four broad steps to make an exit from fossil fuels. They include a stop to any new permits or financing for coal, oil, and gas extraction and related infrastructure. The letter puts a 2030 deadline for coal extraction and 2031 deadline for gas extraction by richer nations such as the U.S.
Nuclear must also be phased out, given it’s “an inherently dirty, dangerous, and costly energy source,” the letter asserts.
Economic policy must also advance a fossil fuel exit; that necessitates no further subsidies for the industry but instead a tax on “windfall profits.”
The letter additionally calls for the creation of “an international plan for an equitable phaseout of fossil fuel production and use in line with the 1.5ºC target” of the Paris climate agreement, one that recognizes “the historical responsibility of rich industrialized countries for the climate crisis and the necessity of their leadership, and the different capacity of countries to rapidly transition and diversify their economies.”
Additional steps are needed, the coalition says, to ensure a future renewable energy system doesn’t “repeat the violence of the extractive, fossil fuel past.”
“The good news is that President Biden has the executive tools to break free from fossil fuel oligarchs and turn the U.S. into a renewable-energy powerhouse.”
On this front, the signatories say global cooperation is a must. Related steps include ensuring renewable energy deployment goes to the Earth’s estimated one billion people still without electricity. And, where possible, decentralized renewable energy-based systems—like roof-based and community solar—should be prioritized.
Extraction of minerals needed for green technology must not run afoul of human and Indigenous rights, nor unleash devastation on ecosystems, Biden was told.
From the local to the global level, “agreements and approaches to drastically scale up the transfer of technology and finance” must additionally be undertaken.
“This is the opportunity of our lifetimes to stop the violence of fossil fuels and build a new era of peace and justice to confront the climate crisis,” the signatories conclude.
Jean Su, Energy Justice Program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the U.S. signatories to the letter, said some of Biden’s recent actions on fossil fuels—including resumption of oil and gas lease sales on public lands and plans to increase gas exports to Europe as a response to Russia’s invasion—are steps in the absolutely wrong direction.
“The fossil fuel blood money funding Russia’s war machine reveals the link between dirty energy and deadly conflict,” she said. “But instead of working to break this vicious cycle, President Biden is doubling down on fossil fuels with expanded exports and broken-promise federal leasing.”
The right response to Russian’s invasion, said Su, “isn’t more drilling, but an energy transformation built on renewables, justice, and peace. The good news is that President Biden has the executive tools to break free from fossil fuel oligarchs and turn the U.S. into a renewable-energy powerhouse.”
“The violence of fossil fuels,” she added, “must come to an end to save life on Earth.”