Future carbon emissions to be released from our already ‘unlocked’ fossil fuel reserves alone would take us beyond the 2°C warming threshold, research by Oil Change International (OCI) has found.
Not only must all new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure building be stopped, urges OCI, but some fields and mines – primarily those in wealthy countries – should be closed even before all of their resources have been exploited.
The recommendations were made in a new report, ‘The Sky’s Limit’, published today, 22 September, by clean energy advocacy organisation OCI.
Greg Muttit, co-author of the report and senior adviser to OCI, told DeSmog UK: “There is no room in the atmosphere for any new oil, gas or coal expansion anywhere, while staying within the Paris climate limits.”
Of the world’s fossil fuel reserves, 36 per cent have already been ‘unlocked’ in existing oil & gas wells and coal mines.
Unlocked reserves are those where the wells have already been drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.
If these projects run to the end of their lifetimes, burning all of these unlocked resources would already take us well beyond the 1.5 degree threshold and over the 2 degree threshold, warns the report. Never mind future reserves.
The potential carbon emissions from developed resources of oil and gas alone, even without coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C, the report finds.
While previous studies on carbon budgets have already warned that around 68 per cent of all remaining fossil fuels must stay in the ground – be they unlocked or not – this report focuses on the reserves already unlocked and the emissions from the infrastructure already in place.
Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of OCI, said in a statement: “If the world is serious about achieving the goals agreed in Paris, governments have to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. The industry has enough carbon in the pipeline – today – to break through the sky’s limit.”
The findings are published a day after world leaders gathered for the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the Paris Agreement, where Theresa May promised the UK would ratify the deal “before the end of the year.”
But the pressure remains on the British Government to drop its pro-fracking agenda, which will see shale gas extracted and burned for fuel. The government must “show it means it” when it comes to fighting climate change by stopping its “misguided dash for gas” Muttit told DeSmog UK.
“If the government goes all out for fracking, it will be going all out for climate destruction.”
Photo: Fabio Pinheiro via Flickr