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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Fossil fuel giants should pay

“Wild animals are confused, they see light for 24 hours and cannot understand what is going on. Children in Turkey are suffering from asthma as a result of pollution in the atmosphere. Ecosystems have changed and are still changing, glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, the climate is obviously changing and at very rapid rate. Scientists have attributed all these changes majorly to the activities of fossil fuel companies that has brought upon the world climate change.”

Greenhouse gas increases are leading to a faster rate of global warming and polluters are asked to pay. Photo credit: earthtimes.org
Greenhouse gas increases are leading to a faster rate of global warming and polluters are asked to pay. Photo credit: earthtimes.org

This is just to mention a few of the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industries activities to mankind and the environment.

Investigations and reports have proven that the fossil fuel industry knew that their activities caused climate change more than three decades ago, but what did they do about it? Pay for campaigns to spread the wrong information. The technology of avoiding carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere by seizing it (carbon capture and storage) was discovered and used in the 1970s.

Instead of fossil fuel industries instilling it in all operations, to stop greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, it was mainly used to make profit while gas flaring continued. For many years the oil giants invested millions in watering down the fact that burning of fossil fuels is one of the major causes of climate change, depriving the world of the opportunity to take action earlier.

According to Inside Climate News, a presentation was made to Exxon’s top management in 1977 highlighting the fact that burning of fossil fuels released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere thereby tampering with the climate.

The big oil companies or the fossil fuel giants have often been likened to the tobacco industry, both powerful, with the same motive and history of concealing important information, that links and proves that their activities are very detrimental to human health and environment respectively.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission Filings for Exxon Mobil 1999-2005 Gross Annual Profit, stated: “Just as Big Tobacco lied about the risks of addiction and Cancer, Exxon orchestrated a campaign of doubt and deception, making hundreds making hundreds of billions at the cost of people’s lives- now it’s time for them to face the consequences.”

In the same vein, it is not out of place for the same punitive measures expended on the tobacco industry by the World Health Organisations (WHO) convention to be used for the fossil fuel industry by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control succeeded in not only restricting the tobacco industry from participating in the negotiations, but made them pay for the harm they had caused.  With the Paris Agreement entering into force just in time for the Conference of Parties in Marrakech, Morocco from the 7th to 18th of November 2016, the UNFCCC should start limiting the influence and participation of fossil fuel lobbyists.

They need to be brought to book, by starting to pay compensation to developing countries, and should be mandated to contribute to the climate finance goal (towards the mobilisation of $100 billion till 2025 by the UNFCCC). What happened in Paris should never happen again, where fossil fuel industries sponsored the conference, thereby influencing decisions. They should be restricted from being part of the climate negotiations. The UNFCCC should urge G7 countries and world leaders that are parties to the convention to stop funding fossil fuels and redirect that money to renewable energy.

By Chinma George (Climate finance consultant, @Chimz_green)

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