A new study confirmed that in order to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, there should not only be no new development of oil and gas fields or coal mines, but also abandoment of 40 percent of “developed reserves” of fossil fuels.
The study, which was published in Environmental Research Letters on Tuesday, said in order to meet the 1.5°C goal, the world needs to go beyond the International Energy Agency’s 2021 warning of no new fossil fuel or coal development.
“Going beyond recent warnings by the International Energy Agency, our results suggest that staying below 1.5°C may require governments and companies not only to cease licensing and development of new fields and mines, but also to prematurely decommission a significant portion of those already developed,” the study authors wrote.
The study was conducted by researchers at Oil Change International and the International Institute for Sustainable Development and used a “commercial dataset of more than 25,000 oil and gas fields and created their own for coal mines” to assess the emissions that would be “locked in” by existing fossil fuel mines or field, according to a press release.
The study “calculated that if all of the fossil fuels in these facilities were developed, it would lead to 936 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions,” EcoWatch reported, which would be the equivalent of 25-years worth of current annual emissions, and therefore, exceeds the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees of warming.
“Our findings show that halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget,” Greg Muttitt, co-lead author from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said. “Some existing fossil fuel licenses and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”
According to the research, 90 percent of the developed fossil fuel reserves are in 20 countries with the top ten locations including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Iran, India, Indonesia, Australia, Canada and Iraq. In order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, Oil Change International’s study urges governments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees by closing existing fossil fuel fields and mines.
“Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine,” Kelly Trout, co-lead author from Oil Change International, said. “The world has already tapped too much oil, gas, and coal. Developing more would either cause more dangerous levels of warming, if fully extracted, or create a larger scale of stranded assets.”