The world’s first diplomatic initiative to keep oil and gas in the ground was launched today at the COP26 climate talks. But it did not get the support of the UK and Scottish governments.
Eleven members from regions and small countries joined the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA), including Denmark and Costa Rica (co-chairs), France, Sweden, Wales, Ireland and Greenland.
At an over-subscribed news conference, with a large crowd outside, Denmark’s Climate Minister Dan Jørgensen, said:
“Science has made it clear – the fossil era needs to come to an end.
“We hope today will mark the beginning of the end of oil and gas.”
He said BOGA would provide momentum for countries to phase out oil and gas production:
“This is why Denmark has set an end date for oil and gas production. And why we are building this alliance of countries willing to step up to the plate.”
Asked if BOGA members would simply move to importing gas, rather than produce it themselves, Mr Jorgensen said
“How can you defend being carbon neutral in 2050 but still want to produce oil and gas and sell them to others. That does not add up. We would really urge oil countries to enter into these conversations.”
Andrea Meza, Costa Rica’s energy and environment minister, said the alliance “raises the bar” for climate action. She said the initiative addressed the supply side of fossil fuels for the first time.
“This starts the conversation about the production of oil and gas. We know it’s not an easy conversation in any of the countries.
“Every dollar that we invest in fossil fuel projects is one less dollar for renewables and for the conservation of nature.”
Some members of BOGA, like Denmark, have already decided to phase out oil and gas production. Others are not producers but, like Greenland and Costa Rica, have hydrocarbon reserves.
Ireland’s climate minister, Eamon Ryan, said his country had joined to lead the transition away from global oil and gas production.
The Welsh deputy minister for climate change, Lee Waters, said membership showed that Wales was “at the forefront of meeting the global challenges of climate change”.
Large oil and gas producers, like the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Canada, have not joined.
Boris Johnson declined yesterday to sign up the UK to the new alliance. The COP26 president, Alok Sharma, was asked today whether this undermined the UK’s negotiating stance in Glasgow.
Mr Sharma said the UK had the largest offshore wind sector in the world and it was due to at least quadruple by 2030. But he said the government’s advisors, the Climate Change Committee, had said oil and gas would continue in the UK energy mix.
BOGA said it had been having “close talks with Scotland” but first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was criticised today for not signing up. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“Nicola Sturgeon is keen to use the language of climate justice and be photographed with Greta Thunberg but at some point her fine rhetoric has to translate into a commitment to stopping the oil and gas production that is driving the climate crisis. Refusing to join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is a failure to follow through on her government’s recent change of position to no longer support unlimited oil and gas extraction.”
Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency said development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year if the world is to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050
Last month, a report for the UN concluded that fossil fuel production planned by government “vastly exceeded” the limit needed to keep global temperatures at safe levels.
According to the study, planned production would lead to 57% more oil and 71% more gas in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5C, a key aim of the COP26 climate talks.
Jerry MacEvilly, of Friends of the Earth Ireland, said:
“An important next step must be preventing any oil and gas development from existing exploration and extraction licences in Irish waters in line with the recent analysis by the International Energy Agency that permitted no new oil and gas field development. It is also important that government builds on recent policy which introduced a moratorium on the development of LNG and fracked gas imports and takes steps to make this a permanent ban”
Romain Ioualalen, of Oil Change International, described the alliance as a turning point:
For far too long, climate negotiations have ignored the basic reality that keeping 1.5ºC alive requires an equitable global plan to keep fossil fuels in the ground. For the first time, countries are now joining together to act on the urgent need to phase out oil and gas production. The creation of this alliance puts to shame claims of climate leadership among countries like the United Kingdom, Norway, the United States, and Canada, all of which have yet to answer this simple question: Where is your plan to stop producing the fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis?
BOGA full members: Denmark, Costa Rica, France, Greenland, Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Quebec
Associate members: New Zealand, California, Portugal