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A Fair Shares Phase Out: A Civil Society Equity Review on an Equitable Global Phase Out of Fossil Fuels

Civil Society Equity Review (2021)

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The report is by the CSO Equity Review coalition, which came about in 2015 at COP21. The report, prepared in the context of COP26, provides a framework for equitable supply-side policies.  

It calls for countries to urgently do their ‘fair share’ to phase out fossil fuel extraction to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement temperature target, noting that emissions pledges to date are inadequate (e.g. we need more than 3 times as much mitigation as planned in 2021 to reach the 1.5°C pathway by 2030). The paper contains thirteen country profiles, demonstrating the challenges and opportunities to address fossil fuel production in each country (China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom and United States).  

The report emphasises the overarching goal for all governments and companies to end development of new fossil fuel projects worldwide. All countries need to transition to 100% renewable energy. The report identifies key policy measures for countries to contribute to their fair share of emissions reductions. Specifically, it says we need to immediately end new fossil fuel exploration, investment and extraction, and phase out existing production. Producer countries can reduce supply be restricting, banning, and placing moratoria on drilling permits and extraction. Many existing fields and mines should be closed before the end of their economic life to limit warming to 1.5°C. Importantly, the report says related infrastructure should also be prohibited (e.g. proposals for pipelines, terminals, coal ports etc.).  

With respect to equity, the report recognises that poorer, more fossil-fuel dependent countries are at risk of greater social and economic disruption. Equity considerations require phase-out to be pursued first and fastest where the most harm to communities occurs (e.g. cases where extraction violates basic human rights) and where phase-out has the least social costs. It also means countries that are highly dependent on fossil fuels and have limited capacity to transition should be supported financially and should be allowed longer periods to phase out (if that is helpful) by those who are wealthier and less dependent (e.g. Australia, Canada, Norway, the UK, US). Wealthy countries must end all financing for fossil fuels and scale up finance for phase out efforts elsewhere. The report says we need leaders to break away from the status quo, supporting a First Movers Club.  

Importantly, the report highlights the problem of “net” emissions, which it says provides loopholes for emitters. It recognises offsets and negative emissions technologies are likely to result in land grabbing and human rights abuses in the Global South. It considers carbon capture and storage, offsetting and carbon trading, and carbon dioxide remove geoengineering to be “dangerous distractions”, as many of the technologies involved are expensive, unproven, risky, harmful to biodiversity and give polluters a way to avoid taking real action. 

The report helps support challenges to fossil fuel infrastructure along the supply chain. It makes a strong case for action first in the Global North, stressing the importance of fossil fuel projects to cease in wealthy countries. This point can be used to challenge an argument that suggests keeping fossil fuel infrastructure in the Global North is preferable to the alternatives, because of equity considerations. It also reinforces the overarching need for every country to phase out fossil fuels, which supports legal challenges to fossil fuel projects in the Global South as well as in the Global North.  

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