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Colombia joins international alliance calling for treaty to end use of fossil fuels

<span>Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP</span>
Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP

Colombia has formally joined an alliance of nations calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty to prevent the “omnicide of planet Earth”, the country’s president announced at Cop28.

At the climate summit in Dubai, Gustavo Petro has said his country would join a group of nations calling for a new body to manage a global transition away from the primary driver of global heating, akin to previous treaties to reduce nuclear weapon arsenals and landmines.

“Some may ask: why would the president of this country want to commit suicide with an economy that relies on fossil fuels? Being here, we are trying to halt a suicide, the death of everything that is alive, everything that exists. This is not economic suicide. We are avoiding the omnicide of the world, of planet Earth. There is no other formula, no other path. Everything else is an illusion,” he said.

The Latin American country, which has a significant oil, gas and coal industries, is the 10th country to join the coalition and the second fossil fuel producer to back the treaty after Timor-Leste did so earlier this year. The initiative was launched by a group of Pacific island nations and has gained support from the European parliament, the World Health Organization and 100 cities and subnational governments.

At Cop28 countries are wrestling with what language to use over the reduction of fossil fuel consumption to limit global heating, with governments split on language to phase down or phase out fossil fuels amid urgent scientific calls for rapid global decarbonisation.

The announcement was greeted by heads of state that have already joined the alliance backing the treaty, including small island states that are already experiencing major threats from the climate crisis.

Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, praised Colombia’s enthusiasm for the proposed treaty. “The transition to clean energy sources is not simply an option; it is an urgent necessity to which Colombia seeks to respond. Its arrival in this group of pioneering nations strengthens our collective position and demonstrates growing diplomatic support for a negotiating mandate for this fossil fuel treaty. With Colombia, we have just taken one more step towards a future free from oil, gas and coal,” he said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), the global energy watchdog, has said demand for coal, oil and gas will begin to decline this decade, signalling the “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. Billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere every year from the burning of fossil fuels.

Speaking at the event, , the director general of the World Health Organization, compared fossil fuels to tobacco while speaking in support of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

“Addressing climate change necessitates addressing the role of fossil fuels, much as we cannot address lung cancer without addressing the impact of tobacco,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“Without addressing 75% of emissions, achieving 1.5C doesn’t happen. It will not happen. Debating the same issue – which is obvious – and fighting this issue over and over means we just stay in the same place. This has to stop. The science is there, the evidence is clear. We know the problem and we know the solution. The solution is also clear.”

Kausea Natano, the prime minister of Tuvalu, said this Cop must include language on fossil fuel phase-out in its final text. “Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity. Yet, every year, we find ourselves debating the same issues and fighting the same battles. The science is clear: In order to keep 1.5C alive, we must take urgent action to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The Pacific sits in the frontline of climate change with worsening climate damage.

“Today, on behalf of the people of Tuvalu, I come to deliver a simple message to save our people from the devastating impacts of climate change. This Cop28 must produce a decision that addresses the root cause of emission. It must include clear language of phasing out fossil fuels. We no longer have time to sit by while our islands sink, while our forests burns and while our people suffer,” he said.