Stopping 40% of fossil fuel production could avert the world's worst climate impacts (study) - Energy

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  • Achieving climate goals requires closing half of all fossil fuel production sites
  • Relying on carbon capture technologies is a knee-jerk adventure
  • Developed fossil fuel reserves could release 936 gigatonnes of carbon
  • 90% of the developed reserves come from only 20 countries
  • Expansion of fossil fuel projects does not solve the energy crisis

The energy crisis has demonstrated the enthusiasm of governments seeking to stop fossil fuel production, and compounded the dilemma, but it risks widening the distance between current policies and climate ambitions.

Last year, the International Energy Agency called for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects entirely, to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

It seems that even this, which is facing difficulties in achieving it, is not enough to avoid the repercussions of climate change, as a recent study issued by the International Institute for Sustainable Development showed that approximately 40% of the current fossil fuel production sites need to be closed, if the world wants to reduce the degree of Global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The new research assumes that carbon capture technologies will not be able to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas, stressing that relying on such technologies is a risky adventure.

fossil fuel emissions

The researchers used a commercial database of more than 25,000 oil and gas fields and developed a new data set for coal mines in the 9 largest black-fuel producers.

The researchers concluded that the developed fields and mines could lead to cumulative emissions of 936 gigatons of carbon, if their reserves were completely exhausted and burned, with the share of coal, oil and gas accounting for half, one-third and one-fifth, respectively.

These emissions are 60% larger than the remaining 1.5°C carbon budget and represent 25 years of global emissions at the current rate, when the world needs to halve them by 2030.

Climate change - carbon emissions - developed countries
The share of developed and developing countries in carbon emissions historically

The study concluded that Russia, with its large developed reserves of oil, gas and coal, represents 13% of the world total.

Almost 90% of developed fossil fuel reserves are located in just 20 countries, led by China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and then Iran, India, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, and Iraq.

The research looks only at projects where companies have made final investment decisions, meaning a commitment to spend billions on producing fossil fuels by building drilling rigs, pipelines, and more.

According to Al-Ghadrian newspaper, the 10 largest oil companies are on track to spend $103 million per day until 2030 on projects that impede climate goals.

Cessation of fossil fuel production

The study authors believe that halting fossil fuel production projects – which the Energy Agency has called for – is a necessary, but still insufficient, step to achieve climate goals, noting that the world needs to cancel existing licenses for oil, gas and coal production, and stop extraction operations early.

The study suggests that by stopping the issuance of new permits to explore for fossil fuels, governments can avoid the further entrenchment of legal and political barriers to climate policy and reduce outstanding assets.

fossil fuel subsidies

In the face of this, governments still subsidize fossil fuels, and this has exceeded $5 trillion in the last 12 years, according to International Energy Agency figures.

Last year, a group of 25 countries and development finance institutions pledged to halt most public investment in fossil fuel production outside their borders by the end of 2022, but the deepening energy crisis is putting these plans in doubt.

One of the authors of the paper from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Greg Muttitt, adds that governments need to start addressing how to stop fossil fuel production in a fair and equitable way, and overcome opposition to the interests of the main emitter, which has now increased, with the global energy crisis, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine .

“As governments work to reduce their dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal in response to the current crisis, they must realize that developing new reserves elsewhere takes years, and will not compensate for the short-term deficit,” says study co-author Roman Medlevich.

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