Wilderness Policy

The future of the fossil fuel industry

The fossil fuel industry must be shut downs, is the title of the Acid News newsletter editorial, published on December 4th 2019. The first reading of the text creates a feeling of optimism that is so rare in discussions on this subject in the last decades.

Please also read: Make Europe coal free by 2030

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, oil or natural gas, that formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. It has been clear since the beginning of their use, that they cannot last forever.

In the past decades there were many prediction about the demise of fossil fuels. Yet, the fossil fuels industry has proved to be remarkably resilient to such prediction. For oil, the end was predicted for almost every decade since the modern oil industry was founded. Gas started out as a premium fuel. In fact, it was so precious that both the US and Europe banned its burning for electricity generation until 1990. Yet now it appears to be superabundant.

New electricity-related technologies create an increase in the electricity demand, but not fossil fuels. These include electric cars, digitalisation, electricity generation and storage, as well as smart technologies. These new technologies and the promotion of renewables, will probably bring fossil fuels down, rather than international agreements .

Life span of the fossil fuels is 10-12 years?

Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide are still more than 40 billion tonnes and that is a lot. To stay within a 1.5 °C global temperature rise with a 50% chance, according to the IPCC, only about 500 billion tons of CO2 more can be emitted. The present annual emission levels we will exhaust this budget in about 10–12 years.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide still too high

Time is running and more and more voices are calling for a climate emergency situation. There are demands for an immediate phase-out of the use of fossil fuels and a transition to 100% renewable energy worldwide before 2050. One initiative is also a climate Marshall fund of at least 500 billion US dollars.

Climate emergency situation

Since the first World Climate Conference, the governments have been aware that emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global heating. Many more alarming United Nation reports have been published subsequently. The main problem is still that for the past 50 years, the fossil fuel industry and its allies in industry, politics and civil society have been using all financial means to counteract initiatives to effectively reduce greenhouse gases emissions. They have also promoted false, so-called clean, fossil fuel solutions or flexible mechanisms to undermine climate policy initiatives. In fact, in 2015, the world’s 24 largest banks, insurance companies and retirement funds invested 1400 billion dollard in fossil fuel companies. This time is hopefully over.

The shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is not any more just academic discussion and issue to make more and more money but subject which must to happen if we want to continue on our existence. It is not about Wilderness but very much about us. Believe or not the Wilderness will survive if we fail to get rid of the fossil fuel industry, but man will not.

Vlado Vancura
European Wilderness Society Deputy Chairman

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