BusinessDay

Report exposes five rich countries whose fossil fuel production threatens climate goals

Despite loud and long speeches at the just concluded UN Climate Change Conference, a new report has cut through the rhetoric of five wealthy nations, including the COP Hosts highlighting their plans to expand the production of the primary cause of climate change – fossil fuels.

The report examines five wealthy nations — the United States, Canada, Norway, Australia, and United Kingdom — and found a widening gap between their rhetoric on climate action and their plans to expand the production of fossil fuels.

The report was produced by the University of Sussex and conducted in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, Oil Change International, Uplift UK, Greenpeace Norway, The Australia Institute, and Stand.earth.

It analysed recent government announcements and the latest data on fossil fuel production found that there is an alarming gap between what the Fossil Fuelled 5 are pledging to do to reduce their domestic emissions and their plans to expand fossil fuel production, undermining efforts to curtail global emissions and ignoring their responsibility to phase out fossil fuels, rapidly and justly.

Coal, oil and gas production must fall globally by 69 percent, 31 percent and 28 percent respectively between now and 2030 to keep the 1.5ºC target alive. However, the projections suggest that the Fossil Fuelled 5 will reduce coal production by only 30percent, and actually increase oil and gas production by 33percent and 27percent, respectively. As wealthy nations, the Fossil Fuelled 5 should be leading this transition away from fossil fuels.

Despite their net-zero targets and climate pledges these five nations alone have provided over $150 billion in public support for fossil fuel production and consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. This level of support to fossil fuel production is more than the entire G7 put towards clean energy as part of the pandemic recovery ($147 billion).

The report released on the final day of COP26, led by Freddie Daley from the University of Sussex, synthesises the most recent government emissions pledges and compares them to the fossil fuel production plans in the coming decade, as well as other factors such as fossil fuel subsidies.

They show that several of the world’s wealthiest nations “are doubling down on fossil fuel production” which will “have disastrous impacts for all life on our planet, but especially those communities in the Global South who have done the least to create this crisis and have the fewest resources to adapt to its impacts.”

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Despite their historical responsibility for emissions, and being well-placed to finance a global just transition, these countries are also guilty of exporting large amounts of coal, oil and gas, fuelling other countries’ dependency on dirty energy sources.

“There’s an alarming gap between what wealthy nations are saying and what they are doing. You would expect these five nations to provide the leadership needed to move the global economy away from fossil fuels and reduce emissions to zero. However, they seem to be quite content to make pledges and promises with one hand, while expanding and subsidising fossil fuel production to the tune of billions on the other, said Freddie Daley, Research Associate at the University of Sussex and the Lead author.

“Not only are these wealthy nations jeopardising their own futures and the futures of their citizens through this continued expansion, but they are condemning communities in the global south to a state of perpetual crisis which they did nothing to create. If these nations want to be climate pioneers, it is time they addressed the elephant in the room: fossil fuels.”

Country-specific analysis from the paper’s country profiles includes: The United States has pledged to halve emissions by 2030 yet have simultaneously provided $20 billion in annual support to the fossil fuel industry.

Despite hosting COP26, the United Kingdom is expected to green-light the Cambo oil field, which contains approximately 255 million barrels of oil.
Canada is looking to increase their price on carbon but also provided approximately $17 billion in public finance to three fossil fuel pipelines between 2018 and 2020.

Norway has raised its ambition to decrease emissions but has already granted 60+ new licenses for fossil fuel production and access to 84 new exploration zones in 2021 alone.
Despite its recent commitment to net-zero by 2050, Australia has over 100 fossil fuel projects currently in the approval pipeline.

The paper was produced by the University of Sussex and conducted in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, Oil Change International, Uplift UK, Greenpeace Norway, The Australia Institute, and Stand.earth.

Collin Rees, U.S. Program Manager, Oil Change International said the United States is the poster child for climate hypocrisy — the world’s largest historical emitter claiming the mantle of climate leadership while pouring fuel on the fire of the climate crisis.

“Joe Biden’s words will ring hollow until he cancels deadly fossil fuel expansion projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline or the dozens of proposed oil and gas export terminals awaiting approval from his administration,” said Rees.

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