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Fossil fuel interference with policy

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Added 13th October 2016 12:10 PM

Developing countries all have a duty to collaborate and protect the climate system.

Fossil fuel interference with policy

Carbon emissions into the atmosphere caused by human-induced activities are rapidly altering the climate system

Developing countries all have a duty to collaborate and protect the climate system.

By Ann Grace Apiita

For many years, fossil fuels have contributed more than one third of the global energy supply.

Coal has been the life blood of world economies since 1951, and it accounted for more than half of the world's energy until 2015 when consumption fell by 1.8 percent leaving oil as the world's leading fuel accounting for 32.9 percent of the global energy consumption. Emerging economies continue to accelerate growth in the exploitation of fossil fuel - global energy consumption which now stands at 58.1 percent - Bp Statistical Review of World Energy.

Carbon emissions into the atmosphere caused by human-induced activities are rapidly altering the climate system with adverse ripple impacts on ecosystems and communities according to IPCC reports - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If by 2050, industrialized countries for instance reduce 80 percent of carbon emissions whereas emerging and developing economies continue to accelerate growth in the exploitation of fossil fuel, what does it imply for the 2015 historical Paris climate change agreement where world leaders agreed to drive efforts to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5°C degrees?

Developing countries all have a duty to collaborate and protect the climate system even if they barely contributed to historical emissions: Millions of people in these regions face death from coastal flooding, droughts, and poor health, water - food scarcities among other factors. As once remarked by the Late Professor Wangari Maathai, ‘development must not degrade the environment,' which is not the case today; fossil fuels are interfering with policy and it's an injustice to human lives and the climate.

In a climate dependent country like Uganda which is geographically unlucky, the discovery of commercial oil in the Albertine Graben region 10 years back was met with excitement because it meant a ray of hope for majority of Ugandans living below the poverty threshold: It meant empowerment to find the freedom to lead a dignified life economically, socially and otherwise without any barriers whatsoever!

The Albertine Graben area contains 6.5 billion barrels of oil as estimated by the government of Uganda. By 2015, appraisals endorsed 2.5 billion barrels as captured in the (OGJ) Oil and Gas Journal. As Uganda plans to take a wider scale of risks to construct an oil refinery and pipeline towards the Mombasa coast, the future damage costs of collective emissions globally are bound to overtake the cost of action today with (emission reduction) to escape the dire impacts of climate change. In addition, persistent infrastructural fossil fuel investment will be a complete waste of resources and time if 30 years later the industry is compelled out of the market with stiff competition from the clean - renewable energy market and strict regulation by world leaders. Fossil fuel investments must be channeled toward promoting clean and renewable energy sources.

Today, low and middle income countries are facing budgetary constraints induced by climate change impacts for the record, thereby posing huge macro economic burdens which have ultimately amplified social turmoil.

Therefore continued growth in the exploitation of fossil fuel will disrupt the economy breeding irreversible changes. New investments in the oil sector poses a challenge for the effective implementation of the climate change policy that prioritizes the drive to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.  The magnitude, rate and regional patterns of impacts will be dreadful to the next generation and more devastating to vulnerable poor most especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America if no integrated action is taken.

"We've now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2°C temperature limit. "Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2°C goal. If they go ahead with developing their own resources, they must be asked which reserves elsewhere should remain unburnt in order for the carbon budget not to be exceeded" - according to Dr. Christopher McGlade, Research Associate at ISR

By 2035, the global average temperature could rise above 2°C if no resolute efforts to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations from the atmosphere are implemented according to the evidence provided by climate experts. The intricate web of climate change impacts is an absolute bottleneck to growth and development: Progress in overcoming poverty, food insecurity, poor health, biodiversity loss, lack of education and crippled investments among others has declined, leading to masses of people migrating to different areas to sustain their livelihoods.

By and large, Uganda plus all other nations have reached a turning point where there is no choice but to ensure that the fossil fuel industry doesn't interfere with accomplishing the Paris climate accord COP 21 because living in denial on the other hand means a complete blow to economic growth and development.

Over 60 countries have now ratified the Paris agreement on climate change which is bound to come into force before 2016 ends. This implies that the collaborations of governments and global political leaders have envisioned the fossil fuel adverse impact to the climate system and inhabitants of the planet. Therefore, there's no better time than now for oil companies and massive investors of fossil fuel infrastructures to borrow a leaf as the pledges made during COP 21 are being transformed into policy.

By Ann Grace Apiita

Climate Tracker (@anngapita)


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