Letter from Narberth
There’s a group of people calling for an immediate moratorium on fossil fuels. No more oil. No more coal. No more gas. These people are growing increasingly desperate for those in power to listen to them.
They say there is no pathway to net zero that involves the burning of more fossil fuels, given that 87 per cent of human-caused CO2 emissions come directly from fossil fuel use and that no significant action is being taken to reduce it.
They quote the recent sobering assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”
Who are these people? These desperate extremists? This Eco Mob?
That’s right: the International Energy Agency. Born out of the 1973-74 oil crisis, the IEA was established to ensure energy security for its members, the major industrialised nations of the time.
To do this the Agency developed an emergency response mechanism that would stabilize energy markets in the event of major shocks. this has been employed several times, most recently following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Today the IEA’s mission remains the same: to “enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy”. The ‘Shared Goals’ document on the IEA website states that “the establishment of free and open markets is a fundamental point of departure”.
The IEA doesn’t seek to disrupt the global economy, subvert the rule of law or cause societal breakdown; quite the opposite in fact.
But its current advice to governments is that we simply cannot afford to burn more fossil fuels if we wish to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. Therefore, no new oil and gas fields or coal mines should be approved for development. It’s pretty simple really.
In fact the IEA’s line can be neatly summed up by a catchy three-word rallying cry that any political party’s PR peam would be proud of: Just Stop Oil.
If that sounds familiar, it’s thanks in no small part to the efforts of the tabloid press, fearless in their desire to whip up righteous public anger against these eco-zealots threatening the good old British way of life.
And they’re not alone: the Home Secretary has drafted a new piece of legislation, the Public Order Bill, to outlaw the actions of the International Energy Agency.
Okay, you got me – it’s not the IEA that is the target of the proposed Public Order Bill, it’s the campaign group that shares the IEA’s goal. And there’s a reason for that.
Through non-violent acts of civil disobedience which continue to make headlines around the world, Just Stop Oil have gained a media profile – and a platform for their single, simple demand – that the IEA can only dream of.
Be honest: had you heard of the International Energy Agency before reading this piece? But love them or loathe them, you’ve heard of Just Stop Oil and you know what they want.
The IEA sits around the table with world governments, advising them on energy policy. Their representatives wear suits and speak in measured tones.
When the IEA advisors say “Just stop oil,” government policy-makers nod sagely, thank them for their time and head off for lunch. They’ve heard it before and they’ll probably hear it again at the next consultation, but that’s okay.
No voices will be raised in anger, no tables thumped to underline the urgency. And after all, it is only advice. It can be ignored.
What can’t be ignored? How about people climbing onto a gantry over a motorway, causing traffic to come to a halt for hours on end? Spray-painting the windows of a luxury car showroom in central London? Or throwing tomato soup over a priceless painting or two?
Oh yes, that stuff gets noticed. That stuff gets on the news. It can’t be ignored because it’s wilfully disruptive, specifically designed to grab your attention. Yes, they know you won’t like it. That’s the point. It’s what gives them a voice. It’s the only way to get the message across.
Now, you might agree with the Home Secretary. You might want these trouble-makers locked up. You might just want to get home instead of being stuck in traffic while the police un-glue protesters.
But you probably also want, in the words of the aforementioned IPCC report, “a liveable future”, if not for yourself then at least for your children, or your grandchildren.
And if you have no time for eco-zealots with nothing better to do than make life difficult for hard-working people, perhaps you do have time for the sober, suit-wearing employees of the International Energy Agency.
The people who spend their working days poring over spreadsheets, studying evidence and analysing statistics.
The people whose aim is not only to give us long-term energy security, but also to keep that energy affordable. The people who are advising world governments to – what was it again?
Ah yes: just stop oil.
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