Sunday, 16 December 2018

Nuclear NPT is bad example for fossil fuel control treaty

Letter sent to The Guardian:

Hugh Richards is right to identify the need for a new global regime to control and reduce fossil fuel extraction and  use (‘We need a non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels,” letter, 13 December 2018*;, especially in the week when the inter-governmental climate change conference in Poland (“EU’s climate pledge as UN chief says: ’We’re running out of time’,”13 December 2018).
But he is misguided to think the nuclear non-proliferation treaty  (NPT) is a suitable model.

This treaty, signed in July 1968, with the UK, USA and USSR (Russia) as depositary states, has gained  a huge membership ( over 190 countries signed up), but has been a disaster in  non compliance with its disarmament obligations, in particular the nuclear weapons states members, led by the UK

The NPT requires all its signatories, under Article 6, to  enter into negotiations - in good faith and at an early date -  to achieve nuclear disarmament under strict international verification.(
In the sixty years since signing the NPT, the UK has failed to enter a single nuclear weapon into any bilateral or multilateral nuclear disarmament  negotiation, demonstrating the deepest of bad faith.

All UK removal of nuclear weapons has been done unilaterally.
Ironically the British Foreign Office this week has been running an elite four-day conference at its specialist conference centre at Wilton Park, at a bargain fee of just £1490  per participant(‘The nuclear non-proliferation regime towards the 2020 NPT Review Conference’,

The focus seems to  have been on excoriating  non- nuclear weapons countries ( such as Iran) over alleged or potential proliferation, by countries such as the UK  who have massive  nuclear capability to kill millions, but refuse to meet their NPT legal obligations.

*We need a non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels
‘Peaceful use’ of fossil fuels could mean their continued but decreasing extraction, within enforceable limits constrained by the Paris agreement goals, writes Hugh Richards
A pumpjack operating during sunrise near Gaenserndorf, Austria
A pumpjack operating during sunrise near Gaenserndorf, Austria. Photograph: Christian Bruna/EPA
In the face of the emerging climate emergency (Letters, 10 December) and projected unconstrained growth in global fossil fuel use, this is a plea for people with relevant expertise and influence to take forward the idea for a “non-proliferation treaty” (NPT) for fossil fuels, floated by Andrew Simms and Peter Newell (, 23 October) and supported by Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others (Letters, 30 October).
The analogy between fossil fuels and fissile nuclear materials is imperfect, but it should not be overlooked that the nuclear NPT promotes cooperation in and equal access to “peaceful use” of nuclear technology. “Peaceful use” of fossil fuels could mean their continued but decreasing extraction, within enforceable limits constrained by the Paris agreement goals, and an offsetting role for carbon capture and geo-sequestration (funded by fossil fuel producers). Safeguards and oversight could be provided by a new United Nations monitoring agency, akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which could also administer a global fossil carbon budget.
Fossil fuel companies extract their products where relevant governments permit. The number of nations permitting extractions on scales that threaten all of us is greater than the number of nuclear weapons states, but it is nevertheless small. This could make rapid negotiation of a fossil fuel “NPT” relatively tractable. It would not even have to include all producer nations at first to be effective.
Hugh Richards
Stroud, Gloucestershire

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