Fossil fuel projects increase despite warnings from scientists

Fossil fuel projects increase despite warnings from scientists

Although scientists continue to insist that the planet must move away from its reliance on oil, gas and coal to effectively combat climate change, hydrocarbon development projects continue to emerge. Several countries, cities and NGOs are calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

Within the next few years, multinational companies such as Qatar Energy, Gazprom, Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Turkmengaz, Total energy, Chevron and Shell plan to open new gas and oil production facilities. These projects alone could strain the available carbon budget to limit the effects of Global warming.

In a report presented Wednesday at COP27, The American NGO Oil Change International revealed the new fossil fuel projects approved, or in the process of being approved between 2022 and 2025, could lead to the release of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during their operations. Only projects approved in 2022 account for the equivalent of 11 billion tonnes of CO2 Chinas annual emissions.

One of the projects that the NGO is targeting is TotalEnergie’s mega project for oil extraction Ugandawhich should be operational by 2025. The French company plans to drill 400 wells and export the oil through the huge EACOP pipeline. These two projects together will be responsible for emitting more than 34 million tons of CO2 per year.

“About 90 percent of CO2 emissions linked to fossil fuels”

But for years now, scientists have determined that the only way we will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – the goal set by European Union — is if we move away from our dependence on oil, gas and coal. “About 90 percent of CO2 emissions emitted by humans are linked to fossil fuels,” said Jean-Marie Breon, climatologist at the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory. The remaining 10 percent are connected to deforestation.

According to the latest IPCC report, to prevent global temperatures from rising above the fateful 1.5C mark, we must cut our coal consumption by 95 percent, oil by 60 percent and gas by 45 percent by 2050, compared to 2019 levels. Year 2021, International Energy Agency called for an immediate halt to investment in new oil and gas facilities. Since then, many institutions, led by U.Nhave regularly repeated these instructions.

“Unfortunately, fossil fuels still account for 80 percent of the world’s energy mix today. We are not succeeding in accelerating the energy transition,” says Breon. “And every new fossil fuel project takes us further off course and reduces our chances of staying below 1.5C.”

“We agree with the International Energy Agency on the 2050 target […] But our world lives on fossil fuels, and thinking that we will change the system overnight does not work, says TotalEnergie CEO Patrick Pouyanne. France Info at COP27. “If we stopped building new oil and gas fields, there would be a natural decline in production of four to five percent per year. But energy demand doesn’t decrease by four to five percent. So if we stopped doing our job, it wouldn’t enough production, prices would continue to rise and everyone would be angry.”

“Coal Bombs”

According to environmental protection associations, these arguments are based on a “short-term logic”.

“The climate scientists are telling us that we only have three years left to reverse the trend, so we have to act now,” said Lucie Pinson, director of the NGO Reclaim Finance and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the so-called Nobel Prize. for ecology. “We know that using all the fossil fuel reserves already in production would take us further than 1.5 degrees of warming. Not only must no new gas, oil and coal projects be built, but we must also start phasing out existing plants.”

Pinson believes that the main goal is to stop and prevent new “carbon bombs” from being implemented. The term “carbon bomb”, coined by a team of scientists in a study published in May 2021, refers to the largest fossil fuel extraction projects in the world. “These are all coal, oil and gas infrastructures that can emit more than a billion tons of CO2 over their lifetime,” says Kjell Kühne, the study’s lead author.

Kühne and his team identified a total of 425 “coal bombs” in 48 countries – 195 oil and gas projects and 230 coal mines. The following countries have more than 10: China, Russia, USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Australia, India, Qatar, Canada and Iraq.

“They are single-handedly driving us toward climate catastrophe,” he says. “Taken to their logical conclusion, they represent twice our global carbon budget.” These include huge coal mining projects in China, oil sands projects in CanadaThe Red Hill Project in AustraliaHambach and Garzweiler mines in Germany and the EACOP project in East Africa.

“In 2019, 45 percent of the world’s oil and gas production and 25 percent of the world’s coal production came from these coal bombs,” says Kühne. “However, 40 percent of our list consists of sites that are still in the project stage,” he continues. “Governments, institutions and companies see this as a list of sites not to invest in. Climate activists see it as a list of projects to mobilize against.”

For several years now, environmental activists have increased their efforts to stop investment in fossil fuels by holding demonstrations and taking legal action. For example, Reclaim Finance, together with other NGOs, took the first step towards filing a lawsuit against BNP Paribas at the end of October 2022. They called on the leading French bank, a shareholder in TotalEnergies, to stop financing fossil fuel development.

In June 2022, young Europeans filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against 12 countries – the UK, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Greece, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden – that signed the Energy Charter Treaty, which is considered for indulgence in fossil fuels. Several of them, i.a Francehave since announced that they are withdrawing from the treaty.

A non-proliferation treaty?

Faced with the urgency of the situation, other voices called for COP 27 in Egypt a non-proliferation agreement on fossil fuels to be established.

“The idea was launched in 2020 and is now supported by the European Parliament WHOaround 70 cities including Paris, London, Lima and Calcutta, 100 Nobel laureates, 3,000 scientists and 1,800 civil society organizations,” says Alex Rafalowicz, the initiative’s director. So far, only the state of Vanuatu has given its official support. received in early November joined by Tuvalu, the first state to speak out on the issue during official climate negotiations.

This treaty, based on the same model as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and which Rafalowicz hopes to draft within the next two years, is intended to complement Paris agreement. The reference text, signed in 2015 and written with the aim of combating global warming, does not mention fossil fuels.

“The topic was not clearly discussed until COP 26 last year,” says Rafalowicz. “Until then, we only talked about reducing CO2 emissions and developing renewable energy, without really pointing to the main cause of global warming.” In fact, participating nations officially pledged to reduce their coal use for the first time at COP26 in Glasgow. Some 15 countries, including France, also pledged to halt their foreign investment in “fossil fuel projects without carbon capture systems”.

“The aim is to stop the expansion and construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure and then gradually reduce production,” says Rafalowicz. “But of course this must be done on a fair basis. The most developed countries must help the most vulnerable. Energy must be available to all.”

In addition to this treaty, several states at COP26 formed a “Beyond oil and gas” (BOGA) coalition to promote the transition away from fossil fuels. But a year later came the alliance, led by together Denmark and Costa Rica and includes France, struggling to recruit members. Fiji and Chile are the only ones who have joined it as “friendly” countries, while the state of Washington, in the northwest USAis now a full member.

In the context of the energy crisis linked to the war i Ukraine, which has led some countries to return to coal and gas, the issue seems more difficult than ever. No less than 636 fossil fuel industry lobbyists were at COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, representing an increase of more than 25 percent compared to last year. Non-governmental organizations see this as a sign that the climate conference may also have been used as a front for some gas contracts.

This article is translated from original in French.

Originally published on France24

Fossil fuel projects increase despite warnings from scientists


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