In advance of the highly anticipated 2023 Beyond Growth Conference, this piece is the second in a weekly series to be published together on 8 May in the special issue magazine “Imagining Europe Beyond Growth”, developed in partnership with Belgian de-growth think tank Oikos. The magazine, curated by our Senior Policy Officer for Systemic Change Nick Meynen, will feature 18 articles from diverse actors in the “beyond growth” sphere: from thought leaders such as Kate Raworth and Timothée Parrique to political figures and a variety of civil society allies and EEB staff passionate about system change. Stay tuned for 1 article every week for the next 8 weeks!
Last year, on April 6, 2022, the European Parliament and Council adopted the 8th Environmental Action Programme proposed by the European Commission. In the decision, the need for a fundamental shift was recognized: “Systemic change entails a fundamental, transformative and cross-cutting form of change that implies major shifts and reorientation in system goals, incentives, technologies, social practices and norms, as well as in knowledge systems and governance approaches.”
The decision above should have massive implications on European policymaking, but it also confirms what we already know: sustainability must be placed at the core of all policymaking.
At 1.2°C warming, the world is on a trajectory to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas by 2030 than is consistent with limiting the rise in global temperature to below 1.5°C. According to the UNEP Production Gap report, global total fossil fuel production needs to decrease by at least 6% per year between 2020 and 2030 to be able to limit warming to below 1.5°C.
One way to achieve the shift to a decarbonized economy is the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, or FFNPT. It differs from other climate agreements in that it focuses on supply-side measures rather than demand-side policies such as carbon pricing or subsidies for renewable energy. If endorsed by European countries, it would bind nations to limit fossil fuel production, consumption, and trade and guide the transition to renewable energy sources. The logic is simple. By capping the supply, demand for renewables will increase, leading to a transition to a low-carbon economy. The FFNPT is about tackling the problem at its source.
Managing to phase out fossil fuels that have powered our economy for over a century implies nothing else but entering a new paradigm. And this is exactly what the European Parliament and Council’s decision above entails: a fundamental, transformative, and cross-cutting form of change that implies major shifts and reorientations in system goals.
There are several mechanisms needed to achieve this,
· NON-PROLIFERATION – To prevent the proliferation of coal, oil and gas by ending all new exploration and production
· A FAIR PHASE-OUT – To phase out fossil fuel subsidies and existing production in line with the 1.5°C target
· A JUST TRANSITION – To fast-track real solutions and a just transition for every worker, community and country
The FFNPT calls for systemic change and action grounded in justice, equity, and sustainability, not profitability and vested interests.
Over the years, incremental policy changes and market-based incentives such as carbon pricing and emissions trading have gained political support. The EU managed to exceed its emissions reduction target for 2020. However, the assumption that climate neutrality can be achieved solely by setting the right carbon price is a simplified solution to a complex problem. Getting Europe on track to the 1,5°C target is not a question about price – it is about addressing the root causes of our emissions, the continued production and consumption of fossil fuels.
Photograph: John Englart
But decarbonization also needs to be fair and equitable. Market-based solutions have disproportionately negatively impacted low-income earners and communities without the resources to adapt. By endorsing the FFNPT, European countries can champion the transition and demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that climate action requires equity and a just distribution of costs and benefits.
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty has generated significant interest and is currently endorsed by
· 2 nation states,
· 70 cities and subnational governments,
· 101 Nobel laureates
· 1800 civil society organisations
· 3000 scientists and academics, and almost
· 600 000 individuals
It offers an alternative way forward, from the slow, incremental change of market-based solutions to a systems-wide, just transition towards a decarbonized economy. Who might be better equipped to lead the way than the European Union?
Originally published in European Environment Bureau META (April 2023) at bit.ly/43uCQWE