Fighting Fossil Fuels

Its a busy time for the fight against fossil fuels

At the opening of the COP27 climate negotiations in Egypt on 7 November, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator“, reinforcing his message from April that Investing in new fossil fuels is moral and economic madness

Despite such an obviously true statement, there was very little progress towards decarbonisation at COP27

The meeting was branded “the African COP” but the largest delegation by far was the 1000 delegates from United Arab EmiratesThe oil and gas industry sent over 600 lobbyists, which was more than the second largest national delegation (Brazil)

As one participant told me: “it wasn’t an African COP, it was a Middle Eastern one”.

The only “success” at COP27, was the admission for the first time that climate change is causing “Loss and Damage”. The nations agreed with the EU proposal that “particularly vulnerable developing countries” should be compensated.  However, details of who will pay, and how much, have been kicked down the track to next years’ COP. As this is in the United Arab Emirates, it’s hard to expect much progress.

Nevertheless, it’s a busy time for the fight against fossil fuels.

Climate change related litigation has doubled since 2015, with more than 2000 cases now active against governments and corporations, particularly fossil fuel ones.

In Australia, on 25 November 2022, a group of young people won their case to stop a massive Queensland coal mine, because of its contribution to climate change, environmental impacts, and erosion of human rights.

In the UK, Friends of the Earth are challenging the UK Export Agency’s decision to invest in a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique, on the basis that it is incompatible with the UK’s legal obligations to reduce carbon emissions. When it came to the UK High Court a few weeks ago, the two judges couldn’t agree, so it will be decided by the Court of Appeal in a hearing on 6-8 December 2022.

It’s not just the lawyers that are getting on the case.

The UK’s ‘Just Stop Oil’ campaign has the logical aim of ensuring that “the government commits to ending all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK”.

They’ve been highlighting their case by peaceful protests, including disrupting traffic in London and on the M25. This undoubtedly inconveniences some people, but they’re being very harshly treated. This got worse after an intervention a few weeks ago by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman.  

27 are currently remanded in prison, facing prison sentences of up to 5 years. Others, including a few from Cambridge, will face a Crown Court hearing in London 6-7 December 2022, and may receive career limiting criminal records.

They’ve committed offences, but this seems excessive punishment for acting peacefully in the public interest.