Tuvalu leads calls at Cop27 for treaty to phase out fossil fuels

The Polynesian island state of Tuvalu has joined Vanuatu to call for an international treaty to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

“The warming seas are starting to swallow our lands – inch by inch,” said Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, on a call to the UN summit. “But the world’s addiction to oil, gas and coal can’t sink our dreams under the waves.”

Tuvalu is the first nation at Cop27 and only the second country in the world to call for what is formally known as the fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. It follows Vanuatu, the Pacific island state, that called for a treaty at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.

The proposed treaty would regulate fossil fuel production with the aim to stop any new coal, oil and gas, wind down existing fossil fuel production in line with 1.5C, and finance a global transition to renewable energy where no worker, community or country is left behind.

The proposal is backed by more than 70 cities around the world, including London, Los Angeles, Paris, and has been called for by Nobel laureates, parliamentarians, scientists and NGOs across the world. It follows The Independent’s Stop Fuelling The Climate Crisis campaign which shone a light on fossil fuel production in the UK in the year that the UK hosted Cop26.

Tuvalu’s call comes in the wake of other similar initiatives to manage threats including nuclear weapons and landmines.

The two island nations are set to begin discussions on how to advance the idea and are looking to enter into negotiations with other countries too. Tuvalu, which has a population of around 12,000 people, has a goal of generating 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas urged the UK government to show “real climate leadership on the world stage” by committing to phasing out fossil fuels.

“Yet our Government is still shamelessly ploughing ahead with new North Sea oil licences, delaying the straightforward decision to rule out a new coal mine in Cumbria, and subsiding the fossil fuel industry with massive public payouts,” she said.

“This is totally incompatible with the need for urgent action on the climate emergency – these fossil fuels need to stay in the ground.”

The UK government has been approached for comment.

It comes the day after Rishi Sunak dealt a blow to countries such as Tuvalu and Vanuatu by shunning appeals for the UK to contribute towards compensation for extreme weather and natural disasters caused by industrial pollution.

Demands for a fund to pay for the permanent loss and damage caused by extreme weather have made it to the agenda of a Cop for the first time this year, with calls for the UK and other rich nations to join Belgium, Denmark and Scotland in committing cash.

Other ideas floated at Cop27 so far include the Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, calling for a summit on the role of oil and gas companies to contribute to loss and damage finance.