U.S. Fossil-Fuel Reserves Alone Could Put Global Climate Targets Out of Reach

U.S. Fossil-Fuel Reserves Alone Could Put Global Climate Targets Out of Reach

According to a new database of fossil fuel reserves, the United States has enough oil, gas, and coal to meet the world’s remaining carbon budget. The database was created Monday by Carbon Tracker, a think tank.

The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels was created to be an ongoing public resource. It was published to coincide in climate talks at the United Nations General Assembly, New York, and to kick-start a reckoning of the amount of fossil fuels being developed and invested in around the globe despite international pledges to reduce emissions.

” The elephant in the room, Rob Schuwerk, the executive Director of Carbon Tracker North America at a press conference, said that the continuing production of fossil fuels is the elephant in the room.”

Incorporating information from 89 countries, the registry, which Carbon Tracker created with Global Energy Monitor, currently covers more than 50,000 oil and gas fields, representing more than 75 percent of global production. It includes production, reserve, and emissions data per country, in relation to the carbon budget.

According to the tracker the resulting emissions would surpass the remaining carbon budget (the amount of greenhouse gases that can be expelled into space before the world heats by 1.5 degrees Celsius) by more than seven times.

The U.S. and Russia both have enough resources to exceed the global 1.5-degrees Celsius mark on their own. Scientists believe that allowing temperatures to rise further will lead to more dangerous climate catastrophes.

The quantity of oil and natural gas being produced and used around the globe has been a central – and seemingly unmovable – factor in discussions about how to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

The International Energy Agency has stated that no new oil or gas fields can be created if the world wants to keep below the 1.5 degree warming threshold set by international policymakers. The registry notes that the carbon budget could be exhausted within a decade if existing policies are in place.

International commitments such as the Paris Agreement, in which countries promise to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, place more emphasis on greenhouse gas emissions than the production fossil fuels. This reality has resulted in a disconnect between fossil fuel activities and climate policies regulations and finance decisions, according to Mark Campanale (founder of Carbon Tracker) and chair of the registry steering board.

“The truth is that you should look at the assets of the Glencores and the Chevrons, and see what they are planning to develop.” Campanale stated. “The registry will remind policymakers and remind people working in climate of what is actually happening in the real world .”

The registry notes many “carbon-bomb” oil and gas projects already in the pipeline around the world, from 21 major oil and gas companies, including state-owned firms Qatar Energy, Russian-majority-owned Gazprom and international oil and gas giants.

For example, ExxonMobil Corp.’s projects in development across 14 countries could result in as much as 3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Shell PLC could release 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from new projects across 21 countries.

ExxonMobil did not respond to a press request for comment. However, it stated that it aims to achieve net-zero emissions by the midcentury. A spokesperson for Shell noted that the company expects 50 percent of its capital expenses by 2025 to go towards low or no-carbon products.

“Shell invested billions of dollars in order to transform our portfolio, and help accelerate a net zero future,” the company stated in a statement.

Campanale stated that the registry is not just for regulators or governments. It will allow investors and banks to better assess the investment risks associated with fossil fuel investments.

Stranded Assets are expected to be a result of the global transition away fossil fuels. Market changes, regulations, and extreme weather events will make fossil fuel assets less value than they were expected, according to Carbon Tracker.

The global registry has found early champions from international leaders on climate action such as Inger Andersen of Denmark, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Andersen stated that the tracker would be a valuable asset to UNEP, and other programs.

She said it would encourage honest dialogue about a just transition and note that some parts of the world face a choice between fossil fuel production or energy scarcity.

“It’s easy to say these things in New York City, but when your child is dying in a hospital without electricity, it becomes a real problem.” she said. “Investments could be made in these countries that are suffering extreme energy poverty and absolutely require solidarity

Patrick Graichen was the state secretary at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and he praised the registry for its transparency.

“Data transparency was key to building trust and informing policymakers in international climate cooperation,” he stated in a statement. “We must move away from fossil fuels in favor of sustainable energy systems to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and build a strong, inclusive economy for the future .”

The registry’s creators stated that they are neutral on specific policies.

The database will contain information about the potential impact of fossil fuels on the carbon budget. It will be broken down by country and region. It is based in part on raw data from the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based non-profit. Its sources are BP PLC and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

” “It’s dynamic,” Campanale stated. “It’s like an open library where we add books every day .”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from

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