Dalai Lama and 100 nobel laureates endorse Sussex academic’s fossil fuel treaty proposal
By: Tom Walters
Last updated: Thursday, 22 April 2021
What do the Dalai Lama, as well as Nobel Laureates from peace, literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economic sciences all have in common? They are recent signatories to a letter to world leaders calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition, co-led by Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations in the School of Global Studies.
The letter, published on Wednesday (21 April), sees former presidents, scientists, novelists and religious leaders urge governments to commit to a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels, and a “transformational plan” to ensure everyone around the world has access to renewable energy.
With President Joe Biden hosting 40 leaders at a virtual summit in the White House in attempt to re-assert its global leadership on climate change, the signatories of the letter say that say they “are seized by the great moral issue of our time: the climate crisis and commensurate destruction of nature”.
“The solution is clear,” the letter adds. “Fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is led by a steering group of 23 members from across academia, activism and climate science and enjoys widespread support from civil society, politicians and cities around the world, with Los Angeles the latest city to back the treaty following Barcelona and Vancouver.
The idea of a treaty was first raised by Professor Newell, along with colleague Andrew Simms from the New Weather Institute (and an associate fellow of Sussex’s Centre for Global Political Economy) in the Guardian in 2018. In it, they explained how the threat of nuclear catastrophe provided a precedent for how quickly international cooperation could be roused to help stop a bad situation getting worse. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), agreed 50 years ago between 1965–68, was a triumph of rapid diplomacy – all at the height of cold war mistrust.
The group say that it is critical that bold and immediate action is taken to address the climate emergency, including the phasing out of fossil fuel production, and fast-tracking progress towards safer and more cost-effective solutions.
Peter Newell said of the letter:
“I am delighted at the support from over 100 esteemed nobel laureates for our proposal for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The timing couldn’t be better ahead of President Biden’s climate summit and the critical UN climate meeting in Glasgow later this year. Fairly leaving remaining fossil fuels in the ground is now a clear priority to address the climate crisis.”
It's been a busy time for global academics over the past two weeks, with both Peter Newell and Dario Kenner both seeing research into polluters – and what needs to be done to halt climate change at a governmental level – achieving both national and international coverage.
The news today coincides with Earth Day, which over the past 50 years has been on a mission to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.