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Island Nations Back Fossil Fuel Treaty at Global Citizen Festival

Antigua and Timor-Leste join the call for a Fossil Fuel Treaty, strengthening the global push against fossil fuels.

Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta and Brianna Fruean onstage during Global Citizen Festival 2023 at Central Park on September 23, 2023, in New York City.

Two island nations on Saturday joined the growing bloc of countries endorsing a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty amid a worsening climate emergency and continued inadequate action by the larger and wealthier polluters most responsible for causing the planetary crisis.

Answering United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ exhortation at this week’s Climate Ambition Summit for countries to accelerate efforts to end fossil fuels, the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste in Southeast Asia announced their support for a binding FFNPT.

Their announcement came on the main stage at the Global Citizen Festival in New York City. The nations became the first non-Pacific island states to support the treaty; Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and the self-governing New Zealand territory of Niue previously endorsed the agreement.

“The climate crisis is the most existential threat facing all humanity,” declared Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne. “It doesn’t distinguish between European forests and Caribbean waters. Some carry the burden more than others, as in the case of small island developing states. This is why today I’m honored to announce that Antigua and Barbuda join our Pacific friends in calling for a negotiation of a fossil fuel treaty.”

“This Treaty will be more than words,” Browne continued. “It’s a binding plan to end the fossil fuel era, a pledge to a rapid shift to clean energy, a commitment to a future where economies transcend their fossil fuel past, and an assurance that no community is left behind.”

“With this endorsement, we send a clear message: unity in purpose, unity in action,” he added. “We are proud to become the first Caribbean nation to rally behind this cause, and we invite others to join us.”

Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta said that his country “stands in solidarity with Pacific nations and is formally joining the call for the negotiation of a fossil fuel treaty.”

“Its mission is simple — to halt new fossil fuel ventures, phase out existing ones, and fund a fair shift to clean energy,” the Nobel peace laureate added. “It is more than a climate agreement between nations — it is a health, development, and peace accord that can foster genuine wellbeing and prosperity for all.”

Timor-Leste’s embrace of the FFNPT is considered especially encouraging, as petroleum accounts for the vast majority of the country’s export revenue.

Gillian Cooper, political director of the FFNPT Initiative, hailed the development:

At the Climate Ambition Summit, we saw world leaders finally bring fossil fuels to the center stage of climate negotiations. Now the endorsement of the fossil fuel treaty proposal by Antigua and Barbuda and Timor-Leste at the main Global Citizen stage shows who are the real climate leaders. This bold move also shows that even fossil fuel-producing countries want to break free from the grip of oil, gas, and coal, a system imposed on them by wealthy nations. Today Timor-Leste picked a side — and they’re clearly saying that we need international cooperation so they are not forced by the fossil fuel industry to continue to expand a product that they know is destablizing the global climate and creating long-term economic dependency and vulnerability.

Launched in 2020 and backed by hundreds of groups, thousands of scientists, and people around the world from youth to grandparents, the FFNPT is based on three pillars:

  • Ending expansion of new coal, oil, or gas production in line with the best available science;
  • Phasing out the production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable; and
  • Ensuring a global just transition to 100% access to renewable energy globally.

In addition to the countries mentioned above, the European Parliament, World Health Organization, and scores of cities and other subnational governments have also endorsed the FFNPT, including London, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, Lima, Toronto, and the Hawaiian Legislature.

Earlier this month, California became the largest economy in the world to endorse the treaty.

“This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis,” Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday at the Climate Ambition Summit. “It’s not complicated. It’s the burning of oil. It’s the burning of gas. It’s the burning of coal. And we need to call that out.

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