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From Sept. 15 to Sept. 17, millions of people around the world will be taking to the streets demanding an end to fossil fuels and a rapid transition to clean energy sources. This will include the March to #EndFossilFuels fast, fair and forever in New York City in the run-up to the UN Climate Ambition Summit on Sept. 20. World leaders will be convening in New York to discuss updated plans to reduce emissions and transition to renewable energy.

The meeting takes place during a year of massive climate disruption that included record-breaking heat waves, floods and forest fires. The world is currently on track to overshoot the 1.5 C target that was first agreed upon in 2015 by almost every country on Earth as outlined in the Paris Agreement, according to the World Meteorological Association. The temperature threshold could be breached by 2027. The need to phase out fossil fuels has never been more urgent.

Organizations are calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to:

  • Stop federal approvals of new fossil fuel projects and repeal permits of previously approved projects.
  • Phase out fossil fuel drilling on public lands and waters.
  • Declare a climate emergency to halt fossil fuel exports and investments abroad and speed up investment in decentralized clean energy sources.
  • Provide a just transition plan that creates jobs and helps communities and workers.

Biden recently approved two new “carbon bombs” — the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska and the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Virginia/West Virginia.

It is important that the U.S. lead on this issue because it is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. However, Canada is also a major oil and gas producing country, and we need to show leadership as well.

Climate activists are getting more explicit in their demands by specifically calling for an end to fossil fuels, which is good because there are still many governments (such as the U.S., Canada and Australia) that live in a delusional world where we can get our emissions down to zero while at the same time approving and subsidizing new fossil fuel projects. Climate action and fossil fuels are inherently contradictory; the vast majority of CO2 emissions in Canada and around the world come directly from producing or burning fossil fuels.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for instance, attended the global climate strike in 2019 in Montreal, but he was called out for his government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Fossil fuel companies have desperately tried to convince the public and governments that they are part of the solution so they can continue to make billions in profit as the climate crisis continues to get more serious. This is despite the fact that renewables continue to make up only a slight portion of their portfolios compared to hydrocarbons. They have also been peddling the idea of carbon capture and storage, which is more a lifeline for the industry than it is a real climate solution.

Climate activists are getting more explicit in their demands by specifically calling for an end to fossil fuels, writes Calvin Beauchesne.

Not only has carbon capture and storage not been effective in preventing emissions from being released into the atmosphere to date, but it only deals with one side of the issue — production. The majority of emissions from fossil fuels come from combustion when the fuel is burned in engines or factories to power our cars and infrastructure. In Canada, we export a large amount of our oil and gas to the U.S., meaning we ship our emissions away as well.

The movement to phase out fossil fuels has been gaining traction all over the world. To date, six nation-states, 2,150 civil society organizations, 89 cities and subnational governments and 623,178 individuals have endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty is important because up until very recently, climate agreements failed to mention fossil fuels, and the language around fossil fuels in the newest climate agreements is incredibly weak and unenforceable.

A fossil fuel-free world is possible and within our grasp. We can free ourselves from reliance on fossil fuels by investing in climate solutions, like clean energy, public transit and energy efficiency. It’s not too late to stabilize the Earth’s climate and create a world where air pollution, oil spills and environmental degradation are history. To sign up for an action on Sept. 15 to Sept. 17 or to register your own, go to fightfossilfuels.net.

Calvin Beauchesne holds a BA (Honours) in environmental studies and an MA in sustainability studies from Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. He wrote his master's thesis on the effectiveness of different strategies and tactics of opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline. Beauchesne’s writing has appeared in the Trent Arthur, Peterborough Examiner, Kawartha Now!, Georgetown Independent, Squamish Chief, Golden Star and Nelson Star. He lives in Golden, B.C. and publishes a blog about climate-related issues.

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