Climate Action

Sinking nation Tuvalu calls for treaty ending fossil fuel use at COP27

COP27 Tuvalu's Prime Minister Kausea Natano UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow Scotland

Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano has called for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at COP27. Image: REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool

Olivia Rosane
Freelance Reporter, Ecowatch
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COP28

  • Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano has called for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at COP27.
  • The Pacific Island archipelago is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, with two of its nine islands already sinking.
  • A fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty would including ending the expansion of oil, gas and coal, and financing a just transition to renewable energy.

In the late 1960s, when the nations of the world were concerned about the spread of a potentially civilization-ending technology, they came together and signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Now, in the face of a civilization-threatening climate crisis, a vulnerable island nation wants to do the same thing for the fossil fuels responsible. The Pacific island of Tuvalu became the first country to call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at a UN climate conference on Tuesday.

“We all know that the leading cause of climate crisis is fossil fuels,” Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano said as he addressed world leaders at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. “Tuvalu has joined Vanuatu and other nations in calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to steer our development model to pursue renewables and a just transition away from fossil fuels.”

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Vanuatu and Tuvalu are two Pacific Island nations extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Tuvalu is an archipelago of nine islands, and two of them are already sinking due to rising sea levels and erosion, as The Guardian reported in 2019. Most of the islands don’t extend higher than three meters (approximately 10 feet) above the waves and the rising tides have already salted the soil and the groundwater. Scientists predict it could be uninhabitable within 50 to 100 years.

The nation, however, is not willing to give up.

“The warming seas are starting to swallow our lands — inch by inch. But the world’s addiction to oil, gas and coal can’t sink our dreams under the waves,” Natano said in a statement reported by CNBC.

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Tuvalu’s solution is to call for a treaty that would work alongside the Paris agreement to phase out the global use of fossil fuels, according to the Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative website. The treaty would:

1. End the expansion of oil, gas and coal.

2. Phase out current fossil fuel production at a pace consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

3. Finance a just transition to renewable energy.

Vanuatu first backed the treaty at the UN General Assembly in September, CNBC reported. It also has high-profile backing from the European Parliament, the Vatican and the World Health Organization as well as prominent cities like Los Angeles, Paris, London and Lima, according to the treaty website. In addition, its three proposals have been touted by 101 Nobel laureates, more than 500 parliamentary leaders, 3,000 scientists and academics and 1,800 civil society organizations. Tuvalu’s call for the treaty at COP27 is an important step in making the treaty a reality.

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“Vanuatu and Tuvalu are the first countries to call for a new Treaty as a companion to the Paris Agreement to align oil, gas and coal production with a global carbon budget,” Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative chair Tzeporah Berman said in a statement. “We will look back on this in history as the moment of reckoning with overproduction that is locking in further emissions and holding us back from bending the curve.”

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