Speech: Launch of Sign-on Process for the Parliamentarians’ Call for a Fossil Fuel-Free FutureSeptember 17, 2021
Let’s Speak with One Voice: Launch of Sign-on Process for the Parliamentarians’ Call for a Fossil Fuel-Free Future
The Need to Phase-out Fossil Fuel and Transition to Renewable Energy
September 17, 2021
Fellow advocates and parliamentarians, we meet today with urgent work ahead of us.
Just recently, more than 200 medical journals have warned in an unprecedented joint statement: even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change remains the greatest threat to public health; no temperature rise is safe; and we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass before we act on the climate emergency. Taken together with the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which emphasizes the need for immediate deep cuts in our emissions—this highlights something many often fail to grasp: it is our very health and our very lives that hang in the balance if we delay phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy. In other words: we must do it now or else, we perish.
About 80% of carbon emissions since the industrial revolution have been caused by fossil fuels, which are touted to be more abundant and cheaper. But as I have argued before, it only appears so because we fail to consider the true cost—in terms of negative impacts on our health, our biodiversity and environment, our water and air. And yet even as the entire world remains burdened with paying their immense true cost, fossil fuels have failed to give us reliable and affordable energy—leaving billions literally in the dark because of high electricity prices and the prioritization of profit. I speak from experience: here in the Philippines, over 50 million people living in isolated and island grids depend on under-funded electric cooperatives that rely on diesel-powered generation, even as these same islands have massive potential for renewable energy.
As you all know, the burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global GHG emissions—and by extension, it remains the main driver of climate change. Humanity’s work is cut out for us: we have to target net zero by 2050 if we are to meet our goal to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. That would require cutting down on global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, or 7% every year. We will have to ramp up the installation of renewable energy systems all over the world, with the goal of having renewables account for 70% to 85% of the world’s electricity by 2050.
I know I can speak for other highly vulnerable developing countries that despite our smaller contributions to global emissions, we remain committed to doing our part to facilitate the turn away from fossil fuels to renewables. Like many other developing countries, the Philippines needs more energy—but we know it cannot be more energy at any and all cost. We know that a fossil fuel-free future is the only climate future in which we can hope to survive. And yet we must again also emphasize that the developed countries that have contributed the most to this problem should have just as big a share in the solution.
But phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy is not just a prerequisite for survival in a rapidly warming world. Renewables could be a win-win for economies, for consumers and communities, and for the environment. The transition to renewable energy would not just mean a fighting chance to limit global warming; it would mean more and better jobs and investments, cleaner air, healthier communities, and more access to more affordable and more reliable energy. It would mean a world where all can survive, thrive, and prosper with sustainable development. After all, what is good for the planet is good for business, for our countries, for our families.
We have a lot of work to do, against the clock—and yet there is reason to hope. Renewables are becoming more and more cost-competitive. It is also becoming clearer to many that fossil fuels are also on their way to becoming stranded assets. Investments are already moving in this direction, and policies are catching up. With technological innovations in renewable energy and storage growing faster and more ambitious by the day, achieving universal access to cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy may be within reach.
For all this to be possible, we need urgent action, we need close collaboration across all sectors of society, and we need strong leadership from advocates and allies like you. In closing, I then urge my fellow parliamentarians and other climate-concerned people’s movements around the world to answer the Call—to sign and endorse, to use your platforms to reach more people and gather more support, and to join us in bringing this call to COP26. The only future in which we can survive is a fossil fuel-free one—and together, speaking with one voice, I know we can bring our countries and our peoples towards that greener, safer, more resilient future.
 The New England Journal of Medicine. (2021). https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2113200