The groups, from 350.org and Greenpeace to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), urged the COP22 attendees to work toward a “just transition to renewable energy with a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”
The Paris agreement requires every signatory country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a global temperature rise of 2°C. As one of the world’s top carbon emitters—and one of its richest countries—the U.S.’s participation in the treaty is paramount.
“Since rich countries have a greater historic responsibility to act, they should provide support to poorer countries to help expand non-carbon energy and drive economic development as part of their fair share of global action, with a focus on meeting the urgent priority of providing universal access to energy,” the letter states. “The world can either start now in pursuing a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and a just transition to renewable energy, or it can delay action and bring about economic upheaval and climate chaos. The choice is clear.”
Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the Energy Program of the IIASA, said Monday, “The geophysics of climate stabilization is clear in that carbon-dioxide emissions have to be phased out to zero to stay within a limited carbon budget. There are various way of doing this, but from a precautionary principle one would try to limit our future reliance on uncertain technologies—and the best way to do that is to increase action to get those emissions down—across all sectors, but beginning with the power sector—and particularly coal.”
Li Yan, deputy program director at Greenpeace East Asia, added, “[A]round the world, renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are not only capable of meeting new power demands, but it’s also starting to replace dirty fossil fuels. Meanwhile, millions of people in countries China, India, as well as Europe and the U.S. have had enough of their health and their environment being harmed by the burning of fossil fuels. They are calling for leaders to clear the way for clean and accessible energy systems. We will be the generation that ends fossil fuels.”
Oil Change International, another signatory to the letter, recently released an analysis that found the world has about 17 years to get off fossil fuels entirely, or the hope of keeping global warming below the 2°C threshold would be all but lost.
“The only way to avoid either dangerous climate change, or an abrupt loss of jobs and investment, is to begin a managed decline of fossil fuel production and a just transition to clean energy,” Greg Muttitt, who authored the analysis, said Monday. “This letter shows the massive global movement that has woken up to this reality. World leaders would be wise to heed this call.”