The governments of Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation in the Caribbean highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and Timor-Leste, a Southeast Asian state also vulnerable to climate impacts and heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues, have joined a growing bloc of six Pacific nations pushing for the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The island nations announced their endorsement of the major new climate policy proposal on Saturday, September 23, 2023, at the main stage of the Global Citizen Festival in New York.
In what looks like a decisive step to address the climate emergency, they showed fellow world leaders what the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, meant when he asked countries to raise their climate ambition just three days ago at the UN Climate Ambition Summit.
This move makes them the first countries outside the Pacific region to endorse the call for an international pact to transition away from oil, gas and coal.
Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said in his speech: “The climate crisis is the most existential threat facing all humanity. It doesn’t distinguish between European forests and Caribbean waters. Some carry the burden more than others, as in the case of small Islands developing states. This is why today I’m honoured to announce that Antigua and Barbuda join our Pacific friends in calling for a negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Treaty.
“This Treaty will be more than words. It’s a binding plan to end the fossil fuel era, a pledge to a rapid shift to clean energy, a commitment to a future where economies transcend their fossil fuel past, and an assurance that no community is left behind. With this endorsement we send a clear message: unity in purpose, unity in action. We are proud to become the first Caribbean nation to rally behind this cause, and we invite others to join us.”
Timor-Leste also became the first fossil fuel producing nation to endorse the proposal. The oil and gas sector represents approximately 70% of Timor’s gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 90% of total exports, as well as more than 80% of the state’s annual revenues. Ramos-Horta has expressed his desire to make Timor-Leste a model for sustainable development, which requires a major change in its oil-dependent economy.
José Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1996, said in his speech: “Timor-Leste stands in solidarity with Pacific nations and is formally joining the call for the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Treaty. Its mission is simple – to halt new fossil fuel ventures, phase out existing ones and fund a fair shift to clean energy. It is more than a climate agreement between nations – it is a health, development and peace accord that can foster genuine well-being and prosperity for all.”
Ambassador Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the United Nations, welcomed their support for the Treaty proposal, saying: “Last year we became the first country to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, right here in NYC. This year, we returned with the backing of five of our fellow Pacific nations, and now we are honoured to welcome the support of Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste, showing the power of Island nations around the world to drive forward new international governance that tackles climate change at its source.
“Vanuatu spearheaded the effort to secure an advisory opinion on climate change from the ICJ – along with our allies we’ve proven that we can mobilise our collective ambition at the multilateral level. And a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is the natural next step.”
Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said: “I am pleased to welcome Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste to the team as we forge a path together towards a new Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Fossil fuels are responsible for 86% of the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing the hottest average temperatures we’ve ever seen. Climate adaptation is essential, but without addressing fossil fuel production, it’s like trying to mop up water from an overflowing sink without turning off the tap.
“Over the past year we’ve witnessed a wave of momentum in using the multilateral system to address the climate crisis, from seeking advisory options from ITLOS and ICJ, to the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP27. Island nations are working together to make a multilateral process to phase down the great evil of fossil fuels – the root cause of so many fundamental challenges – a reality.”
Gillian Cooper, Political Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “At the Climate Ambition Summit we saw world leaders finally bring fossil fuels to the center stage of climate negotiations. Now the endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Treaty proposal by Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste at the main Global Citizen stage shows who are the real climate leaders. This bold move also shows that even fossil fuel-producing countries want to break free from the grip of oil, gas and coal, a system imposed on them by wealthy nations.
“Today Timor-Leste picked a side – and they’re clearly saying that we need international cooperation so they are not forced by the fossil fuel industry to continue to expand a product that they know is destablising the global climate and creating long-term economic dependency and vulnerability.”
With the support from Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste, the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty proposal is now being pushed by a bloc of eight nation-states, including Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, and the Solomon Islands.
The proposal is also supported by the World Health Organisation, the European Parliament, 101 Nobel Laureates, 600+ parliamentarians in 83 countries, 2,100 civil society organisations including 380 in the USA, 3,000 scientists and academics and over 90 cities and subnational governments, including most recently the State of California, the fifth largest economy in the world, and nine Peruvian Indigenous Nations.