Phase Out Coal, Stop All Future Fossil Development, Oil Change Urges in Blockbuster Report
The world’s operating coal mines and oil and gas fields contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the targets for average global warming adopted at last year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris, concludes The Sky’s Limit, a report released yesterday by Oil Change International and 14 other organizations.
Even if all coal mining were phased out immediately, the report states, today’s oil and gas operations would still push the atmosphere beyond the 1.5°C long-term target for average global warming that countries adopted just over nine months ago at the landmark international climate summit. That means some of those operations will have to close down. And in a world that adhered to a realistic carbon budget, any new fossil development would be out of the question.
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“If the world is serious about achieving the goals agreed in Paris, governments have to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry,” said Oil Change Executive Director Stephen Kretzmann. “The industry has enough carbon in the pipeline—today—to break through the sky’s limit.”
“There is no room in the atmosphere. No new fossil fuel infrastructure should be built,” agreed report author Greg Muttitt. “This means no fracking for gas in the UK or any other new country, and a fairly rapid winding down of existing fracking in the U.S. All energy development needs to be focused on clean energy from now on.”
“This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it,” Oil Change concludes. But “with the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.”
The report calls on governments to freeze development of new fossil extraction or transportation infrastructure, now projected at US$14 trillion over the next 20 years, largely because the projects would become stranded assets before they reached the end of their operating life.
“They reason that any new coal mine or oil field or natural gas pipeline would need to be shut down early to avoid emissions that would go beyond the agreed level of warming,” DeSmog notes. And “that would translate to no small amount of wasted money.”
“Once an extraction operation is under way, it creates an incentive to continue so as to recoup investment and create profit, ensuring the product—the fossil fuels—are extracted and burned,” Muttitt explained. “These incentives are powerful, and the industry will do whatever it takes to protect their investments and keep drilling. This is how carbon gets ‘locked-in.’”