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Cambridge demands fossil fuel phase-out ahead of COP26

The City of Cambridge in the United Kingdom on Thursday, October 21, 2021, passed motions to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a global initiative that aims to address the source of 86% of carbon emissions in the past decade: fossil fuels.

Councillor Hannah Copley
Green Councillor Hannah Copley

Cambridge’s motion, proposed by Green Councillor Hannah Copley, endorsed the Fossil Fuel Treaty and set an action to write to both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma, COP26 president, urging them to follow suit.

The UK city joins a growing number of communities across the globe calling for a phase out of fossil fuel production. These include Barcelona, Los Angeles and Sydney, who have also endorsed the proposal for a Fossil Fuel Treaty.

Copley said: “We need to negotiate an international treaty to tackle the climate crisis at its source: fossil fuels. We must end, as a matter of urgency, investment and development of fossil fuel infrastructure, and ongoing growth in fossil fuel use.”

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The vote comes just days before the UK is due to welcome 195 countries to the long-awaited COP26, as hosts of this year’s United Nations climate conference. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has touted the conference as a “turning point for humanity”, framing Britain as boldly leading the way.

However, fossil fuel production continues to be the elephant in the room with the UK not having ruled out the possibility of new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea and the approval of drilling at the Cambo oil field, which would produce up to 170 million barrels of oil by 2050.

Richard Folland, Policy & Government Affairs Advisor for the Carbon Tracker Initiative, said: “Cambridge’s endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a critical move signalling to the COP26 host that their constituents are eager to be serious leaders in climate action. There are too many fossil fuels already under production in existing coal mines and oil and gas wells to remain within a 1.5°C budget. The fact that the UK and other countries are even entertaining expansion plans right now is a short-sighted and reckless mis-step which ignores the conclusions of the Production Gap Report published just yesterday.”

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Momentum around the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is growing globally. Recently, the Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Laureates called on world leaders to end fossil fuel expansion. This was followed by 2,500+ scientists and academics who have explicitly called for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Priyamvada Gopal, Teaching Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge and signatory to the aforementioned academic letter, said: “We are in the throes of a climate catastrophe that is not in the future but already unfolding with lethal  consequences for millions. Our existence on this planet in the very present depends on  an equitable but urgent phasing out of fossil fuels in favour of entirely renewable    sources. This treaty is a vital step in that direction.”

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In the UK, the campaign is supported by nearly 100 civil society organisations including Carbon Tracker Initiative, Uplift, Divest Parliament, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Music Declares Emergency and UK Youth Climate Coalition.

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