The Climate Talks Find an Enemy at COP20: The Fossil Fuel Industry

Dec 11, 2014
The Climate Talks Find an Enemy at COP20: The Fossil Fuel Industry

The UN Climate Talks in Paris next December are shaping up be high noon for the fossil fuel industry.

Over the last week, negotiators here in Lima have been working on the draft of a new climate agreement that world leaders hope to ratify in Paris. Up for debate is everything from forest management to climate finance. The text is complicated, sprawling, and a jungle of acronyms and jargon.

But one theme is emerging loud and clear: if the world is serious about addressing the climate crisis, we must get off fossil fuels–completely. This is a new frame for the climate negotiations and it’s revolutionary in its implications.

The last time the world attempted to finalize a climate treaty was in 2009 in Copenhagen. Back then, the debate revolved around managing greenhouse gas emissions and the percentage reductions that rich countries were willing to commit to. Or, as it turned out, unwilling to commit to. The talks were a debacle.

While countries still play a central role in the negotiations, a new actor has taken the stage: the fossil fuel industry. I’ve been coming to the climate talks since 2005 and I’ve never heard more discussion about the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground and radically transform the industry as we know it.

I’m not the only one. Earlier today, the Associated Press ran a piece about how a “zero emissions” goal has been quickly gaining traction, with over 100 countries adopting the target. Yesterday, Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted out the news that the new climate text would “end fossil fuels” by 2050.

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