Two Sides of the Climate Protection Coin: Phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewable energy!

If the findings of the IPCC’s AR5 were not enough of a call to action, the melting of a major section of the West Antarctic ice sheet now appears irreversible. This is yet another reminder about the extent of climate impacts to which society is already committed and that critical tipping points are now being crossed. 

Enough is enough already! ECO thinks it is high time to start phasing out all fossil fuel emissions and phasing in a 100% renewable energy future with sustainable energy access for all. It is not enough to stabilise emissions or to slow down their growth.  Eventually, all emissions have to be brought to zero.  The sooner this happens the better, however the science is clear that it must be before 2050 if we want to limit warming to the lowest levels.

ECO can see no alternative but to transition to a world free from fossil fuels. Much of the known reserves will simply have to stay in the ground. This just transition must and can be achieved while ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable energy that would enable all people on the planet to achieve a decent standard of living. The agreement in Paris must acknowledge this fact and send a transformational message to investors, business leaders and decision-makers around the world.

Achieving this goal will require immense transformational changes in all countries and everyone has a role to play. Frequent readers of ECO will not be surprised to hear that developed countries should take the lead on reducing emissions – achieving a phase out much earlier than others. Developed countries must also lead on providing considerable financial, technological and capacity building support to those countries that need it to make their own energy revolution happen. 

Phasing out fossil fuel emissions benefits everyone; whether it is the local community currently ravaged by the health impacts of coal use or the global community suffering from the compound impacts of climate change. The co-benefits of climate protection are significant, and so are the benefits of shifting to 100% renewable energy, regardless of a country’s development level. At the end of the day, protecting the climate, achieving sustainable development, eliminating poverty and ensuring energy access for all are not mutually exclusive, but part of the same winning strategy.   

Dear ECO reader, do not think that because these ‘phase out/phase in’ goals are long-term that we have plenty of time to achieve them (and thus that you can spend this session soaking up the sun at a German beer garden). Au contraire. Creating a carbon-free world tomorrow will only be made possible by the decisions governments make today. Any delay in peaking emissions will make achieving the lowest levels of warming even more challenging, substantially increase costs of mitigation and adaptation efforts, and may necessitate the need for deployment of environmentally and socially questionable technologies in order to reduce emissions.

While near-term emission reductions are necessary to keep the door open to limiting warming to below 1.5°C, long-term emission pathways are critical to its achievement. ECO is looking forward to hearing about the more ambitious actions taking place or planned in countries across the world at the Ministerial sessions here in Bonn as well as at the Climate Summit in New York in September. We also expect concrete decisions in Lima under Workstream 2. 

Like addicts, we need to come to the point where we recognise we need to go cold turkey on carbon.  There is no better time than the present, at this Bonn session, to kick the habit!

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