Denmark and Costa Rica Want to Make a No Fossil Fuels Allowed Club

Denmark and Costa Rica Want to Make a No Fossil Fuels Allowed Club
Photo: Matthew Brown, AP

Denmark and Costa Rica want to make extra sure the world quits fossil fuels as soon as possible. The two countries are reportedly launching an alliance of nations that are committed to setting a date to phase out both fossil fuel production and use.

Details aren’t totally hammered out for this idea, which the countries are calling the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), just yet, according to Reuters. But the agency, which broke the story, viewed draft documents of the proposed alliance. The two countries said that the draft Reuters saw could change before the plan is rolled out at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, this fall. But the idea is certainly promising.

Nearly 60 countries have some sort of net zero emissions pledge in the ether, but only six of those have actually set a target in law — the rest of those targets exist either in policy documents or in some kind of political statement. Meanwhile, just a handful of countries have enacted bans on new fossil fuel exploration or production. An International Energy Agency report published earlier this year showed that new fossil fuel exploration needs to stop by 2022 in order to keep warming under the Paris Agreement targets. That underscores the need for all countries to get their act together when it comes to stopping fossil fuel production.

“We are in a paradoxical situation right now where many countries have pledged to become carbon neutral but are actually still planning to produce oil and gas after that date,” Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Dan Jorgensen told Reuters.

According to Reuters, in order to join this exclusive BOGA club, countries would have to set firm targets in place to end current oil and gas production and ban new exploration. Countries could get into a “second-tier” level if they make some steps like limiting fossil fuel financing or reforming subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

If there was an all-star team to lead this effort, Denmark and Costa Rica would be it. Even though Costa Rica doesn’t produce fossil fuels itself, it has long been recognised for leading the way and setting aggressive decarbonization targets. Denmark — one of the largest producers of oil in the EU — became the second country last year to ban fossil fuel exploration and extraction. New Zealand, Reuters reported, said it was “in the process of learning more about this initiative.” However, the actual level of interest from countries in joining the proposed alliance is still pretty murky, but if enough countries hop onboard, it could be huge.

“The announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance by Denmark and Costa Rica could mark a significant shift in global geopolitics on fossil fuels and climate,” Alex Rafalowicz, the director at the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, a group that works to advocate for global agreements to end the production of fossil fuels, wrote in an email. “If it sticks to ambition and integrity, BOGA will help create momentum for other countries to join, redefine climate leadership, keep fossil fuel production central to climate discourse, create pressure on laggards, and support Global South countries to develop along a new path. We are waiting to see the detail but hope it will become a real forum to advance international cooperation to address the unsustainable production plans of this industry.”

Rafalowicz explained that we’re in such a dire situation when it comes to climate that the Paris Agreement needs all the help it can get. The world’s premier climate agreement doesn’t do anything to address fossil fuel production, which is what’s worsening the climate crisis. The United Nations found that the world’s governments are currently on track to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than we can burn under the 1.5-degree-Celsius (2.7-degree-Fahrenheit) target in the Paris Agreement. An agreement like BOGA or a similar fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty becomes almost necessary alongside other global agreements to help make sure the world is not producing more fossil fuels while simultaneously trying to wean itself off them.

“It needs to be more than a forum just to backslap or greenwash but to really move all countries forward — producers big and small, rich and poor — together toward our shared climate goals,” he said. “So the test for these types of international cooperation are do they have significant science-based targets and goals? Are they strict and clear enough on their rules? And have they considered global equity, when a commitment from a place like Denmark is very different to one from Nigeria? Does BOGA have a plan to engage and support commitments from producers outside of Europe for example? All of these questions remain open around BOGA, but for those of us who have been campaigning on the need for the international system to address the question of the proliferation of fossil fuels, this is at the very least a big first step in the right direction.”