It is time to phase out fossil fuels

We call on world leaders to come together and commit to start phasing out fossil fuels immediately.

The sun sets behind an oil drilling rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
The sun sets behind an oil drilling rig in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on March 17, 2011 [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

On March 20, the United Nations’ top experts on climate science released a synthesis report on climate change. In it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s peak climate science body declares that we have fallen dangerously behind in trying to control climate change as our greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow instead of decline.

“The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans are insufficient to tackle climate change,” the authors of the report warn.

Despite these and previous warnings by scientists, the world is dragging its feet on taking the drastic climate action needed to keep the world from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – the threshold beyond which climate change will have the most devastating consequences for humanity.

We are already witnessing what climate chaos can do to our civilisation. Our nations – the United States and Bangladesh – are already suffering. Millions of Americans and Bangladeshis have been hit by floods, droughts and other extreme weather made worse by climate change. We have lost countless lives and suffered enormous economic losses due to our inaction.

As elected representatives in the US and Bangladeshi legislatures who care for the fate of our communities, we call for immediate action on climate change. We know that we cannot limit global warming to 1.5C unless we cut significantly our carbon emissions. That is why, we need to agree to phase out fossil fuels starting right now.

The IPCC report is the latest and direst warning that we need to reduce drastically our reliance on fossil fuels.

Burning of coal, oil and gas has been the source of 64 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution; over the past 10 years, this ratio has grown to 86 percent. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases drive up the Earth’s temperature, which creates a spiralling crisis of extreme weather, rising sea levels, disease, biodiversity loss, water stress and poverty.

Despite being aware of this problem for decades, the fossil fuel industry continues to put profits first and ignore scientists’ warnings. That is why, we need leaders who will put the people first.

We need leaders at international financial institutions like the World Bank to firmly commit to addressing climate change and better supporting vulnerable nations – not doubling down on fossil fuel investments.

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, the World Bank has continued to invest billions in fossil fuel projects. It has fallen behind on its already meagre climate commitments, which are less ambitious than the baseline targets set by other development banks. The World Bank and other international financial institutions need to take immediate action and commit to a fossil fuel phase-out that complies with the 1.5C target.

We also need elected officials in nations across the globe to work in concert to address this planetary crisis. We need heads of state to pick up the pace on talks to end fossil fuels and follow the example of those who are leading the way.

Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the European Parliament have endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Colombia says it will ban new oil and gas exploration. Costa Rica and Denmark created the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a growing cluster of countries driving forward the managed phase-out of oil and gas production. That list needs to grow.

Developed nations like the United States hold a much greater responsibility for climate change than the nations most affected by it, like Bangladesh. Yet, the latter are forced to foot the bill for the devastation wrought on their shores. We cannot continue to allow wealthy countries to externalise the damage of their pollution spree.

That is why, we also need leaders to uphold the promise of support made at last year’s COP27 to nations at the front line of climate change and contribute meaningfully to an international loss and damage fund.

International cooperation, commitments and treaties work because they provide accountability and set deadlines. As we work simultaneously on domestic efforts – from Bangladesh’s visionary Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan to the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act – we must commit as a global community to phase out fossil fuels.

A global commitment to phase out fossil fuels would inject urgency and decisiveness into a debate where we have no more time left to lose. That is why, we have joined hundreds of parliamentarians from across the world calling for stronger international collaboration to end fossil fuels.

This year, a political opportunity to make that possible is on the horizon. The first “global stocktake” – a convention held by the United Nations to measure the progress of countries and other shareholders in meeting the goals established in the Paris Agreement – is our chance to get a reality check, hit the political reset button and start working hard to avert the most devastating consequences of climate change.

It is time to end the cause of this carnage and seize the moment to phase out fossil fuels for good.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.