The development of oil, gas and coal energy must stop in order to avoid the worst ravages of global warming, 80 prominent economists said on Thursday, ahead of the One Planet Summit that is to be held in Paris on Tuesday.
“We call for an immediate end to investments in new fossil fuel production and infrastructure, and encourage a dramatic increase in investments in renewable energy,” they wrote in a declaration.
The follow-up climate summit organized by French President Emmanuel Macron two years after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement is expected to see 100 countries and more than 50 heads of state attend and is to focus on marshalling public and private money to speed the transition toward a low-carbon economy, especially in developing countries.
However, developing renewable energy such as solar and wind is not enough, the economists warned.
“President Macron and world leaders have already spoken out about the need for an increase in finance for climate solutions,” they wrote. “But they have remained largely silent about the other, dirtier side of the equation: the ongoing finance of new coal, oil and gas production.”
Many new fossil fuel projects already in the pipeline “will need to be phased out faster than their natural decline,” they added.
Numerous studies have shown that exhausting already developed oil, gas and coal reserves is incompatible with capping global warming at “well under” 2°C, the target set down in the 196-nation climate treaty.
“The science is clear: If you look at the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, you simply can’t burn all that without making a different planet,” said James Hansen, long-time director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The shift from “brown” to “green” energy is further hindered by oil, gas and coal subsidies, which totaled nearly 500 billion dollars in 2014, the International Energy Agency has calculated.
In 2015, direct consumer subsidies for fossil fuels topped US$333 billion worldwide, according to the IMF.
“It is time to stop wasting public money on dirty fossil fuels and invest it instead in a sustainable future,” said Tim Jackson, a professor at the University of Surrey.
Signatories of the open letter also included Jeffrey Sachs, a senior UN adviser and Columbia University professor; James Kenneth Galbraith, an economist at the Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs; US billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer; and Australian economist Ross Garnaut.
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