By Dr Helena Wright, E3G

SUVA, 19 APRIL 2018 (THIRD GENERATION ENVIRONMENTALISM LTD)—Those with an eye on international issues will have noticed a series of countries putting a stop to fossil fuel exploration.   In the past few weeks, New Zealand joined the group announcing it will stop granting offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

President Macron of France set the trend last year by banning oil and gas exploration.  This was followed by an announcement from Belize to ban oil exploration to protect its coral reefs, as well as plans to rule out exploration in Ireland.  Costa Rica already has in place a ban until 2021. Denmark recently joined the club, followed by Netherlands plans to end gas production at Groningen fields.

The recent series of dangerous cyclones in the Pacific region show why there is an urgent need to keep climate-warming fossil fuels in the ground.

In February, the century-old Parliament building of Tonga was destroyed in Cyclone Gita – the worst storm to hit Tonga in 60 years. In Fiji, two cyclones struck in just over a week, in what Fiji’s Prime Minister called a ‘frightening new era’ of cyclones.

Exploration for few fossil fuel reserves threatens to push the world over dangerous tipping points in the climate system with catastrophic impacts. The world already has more than enough fossil fuel resources to push us well beyond the globally-agreed limit of two degrees of global warming.

Estimates of fossil fuel resources are highly uncertain, but some estimates have found that if the world’s fossil fuel resources were fully extracted and burned, could raise global temperatures by over 6 degrees of warming.

That level of warming could destroy the systems we rely on for the existence of life on earth.  More than half the world’s oxygen relies on the ocean and high levels of warming could lead to mass extinction.

Fortunately, the trend to ending fossil fuel exploration can be seen as an emerging new international ‘norm’.

However, US President Donald Trump has recently been responsible for trying to push in the other direction, with plans to allowing oil drilling in areas that in some cases had been off limits for decades. After pleas from the Governor of Florida who was concerned about the impacts on tourism, it was announced Florida would not be subjected to oil drilling.

However, what does this mean for the dozens of other coastal states who have expressed their opposition to oil drilling, and other places which rely on tourism?