Hailed as an important step by many campaigners, an alliance of countries has committed at the COP26 climate change summit to phase out the production of oil and natural gas entirely. While major polluters haven’t signed yet, the founding members are confident a long list of countries will come on board over the next few days at COP.
The initiative has been named Beyond Oil and Gas (BOGA) and is led by Costa Rica and Denmark, both with solid plans in place to phase out fossils. BOGA already has six core members (Sweden, France, Quebec, Greenland, Ireland and Wales), three associate members (New Zealand, Portugal and California) and one “friend of BOGA,” Italy.
By signing the alliance, the core members are committing themselves to end new concessions, licensing, or leasing rounds for oil and gas production and exploration, setting a specific date. Meanwhile, the associate members will “take significant concrete steps to reduce production” and can later be upgraded to core membership.
“Today will mark the beginning of the end of oil and gas,” Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy, and Utilities said at the launch. “When I talk to scientists and activists they all want one thing more than anything bold action. That’s what the alliance is here to deliver. We have decided to move beyond oil and natural gas.”
Also speaking at the launch, Andrea Meza — Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy — said that while the signatory countries aren’t the main oil producers, they were the ones with the sufficient courage to do something on fossil fuels. Every dollar spent on fossils is a dollar less for renewable energy or nature conservation, she said.
BOGA is one of the several coalitions that have so far been announced in Glasgow at the COP26, and quite possibly the most exciting initiative launched at the summit. Previously, over 100 countries have committed to ending deforestation by 2030, and another group pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30%. A smaller group also pledge to ending fossil fuel investments abroad.
While they are starting off with fewer members that the other coalitions at COP, Meza showed high expectations for BOGA and compared it with the High Ambition Coalition (HAC), a group of countries that wants to meet avoid temperature increasing over 1.5ºC. HAC started just with a few members and now has more than 60, Meza said.
“This broad alliance can help shift the world away from fossil fuels that are driving climate change toward catastrophe. Transitioning to clean energy will reap enormous benefits for people’s health, the climate and economies around the world. It’s time to take a strong step and resolute commitment, Sujatha Bergne, a campaigner at NRDC, said in a statement.
Time to phase out fossils
The new coalition was probably not well received by the more than 500 fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP26. In an analysis published earlier this week, the NGO Global Witness found that there are more delegates at COP linked with the fossil fuel industry than with any single country, representing over 100 companies and 30 trade unions.
Phasing out fossil fuels is a necessary action in order to meet the target of the Paris Agreement, a climate deal signed in 2015 by almost every country. A study earlier this year found that almost 60% of proven oil and gas reserves and almost 90% of coal reserves have to remain on the ground for the temperature not to grow over 1.5ºC
The International Energy Agency (IEA), a usually conservative organization in terms of the energy transition from fossil fuels, said in a report this year exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields have to stop this year and no new coal power plants can be built if the world wants to stay within the safe limits of global warming.