The movement to shift away from fossil fuels is gathering pace. Today, 10 national and sub-national governments, led by Costa Rica and Denmark, announced the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA). The overarching aim of this new initiative, the first of its kind, is to phase out the production of oil and gas. It follows on from the Global Coal to Clean Power deal announced last week at COP.

Core members, which are Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales, have committed to “end new concessions, licensing or leasing rounds for oil and gas production and exploration”. Associate members California and New Zealand have committed to take “significant concrete steps” to reduce oil and gas production, for example through subsidy reform or an end to international public financial support for the industry. 

Phasing out oil and gas is key to keeping international climate goals within reach. So says UNEP’s production gap report and the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net-zero emissions scenario. The IEA in particular could not be clearer – to have any chance of hitting 1.5ºC, there must be no more investments in new fossil fuel assets after 2021. It also stressed that the power sectors of all OECD countries need to be fully decarbonised no later than 2035. BOGA represents the first step in international cooperation towards achieving these goals.

Only the beginning

BOGA must also be put in the context of net-zero targets, which now cover over 76% of global emissions. However, actions speak louder than words, and major producers like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria, all of which have set net-zero targets, still intend to significantly grow their fossil fuel output.

Ensuring that countries follow through on their net-zero pledges is why an alliance like BOGA is crucial. Its initial impact will be limited for obvious reasons – the combined production capacity of the countries that have joined the alliance account for less than 0.1% of the global total.

But this does not tell the whole story. As Denmark’s Minister of Climate Resilience Dan Jørgensen put it: “We need to look at reserves.” One of the signatories, Iceland, has enough reserves to meet global demand for up to nine months, Jørgensen said. Electing to keep those resources in the ground is a vital element to curbing the adverse effects of climate change.

Besides, the movement to phase out oil and gas has to start somewhere. And there is strong precedent here – the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) was established in 2017 with only 27 members. Since then, membership has swelled to 165 countries, all working to phase out coal. One hundred-and-ninety governments signed up the Global Coal to Clean Power initiative, which commits developed countries to phase out coal power in the 2030s and the rest of the world by 2040. These initiatives start small but then grow as the momentum to phase out fossil fuels builds. 

To that end, BOGA fulfills an important function. It can act as a broad-based coalition of partners with varying levels of ambition to work together so the world can not only consign coal to history, but oil and gas as well.