Stopping fossil fuel proliferation


in Economics, Politics, The environment

I have said before that only multilateral negotiation can address climate change. Today The Guardian has one proposal: We need a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty – and we need it now.

The article argues:

A new line in the sand is needed to underpin the existing climate agreement, to exert influence over the immediate choices of policymakers. At the very least, the science should mandate a moratorium in rich countries on any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, or any infrastructure dependent on it.

That sort of ‘keep it in the ground’ approach would be compatible with what rich countries need to do to set a plausible global course. Unfortunately, it’s entirely at odds with what is happening almost everywhere, as the US races ahead with oil and gas fracking, Europe builds new pipelines to Russian hydrocarbons, and Germany and Japan are reverting to coal after the Fukushima disaster.

At least with a multilateral approach competitiveness concerns would be somewhat muted. Right now it’s a very hard sell for governments to tell corporations they will need to follow rules which their international competitors do not. If the rich world can agree to start with contraction and convergence it may be possible to negotiate a global agreement to succeed the Paris Agreement, but which would have serious targets and appropriate measures for meeting them.

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