Fossil fuel firms accelerating climate catastrophe despite urgent warnings

More than 1,000 oil and gas companies worldwide are actively plotting to enlarge their fossil fuel operations.

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In a world where the urgency of addressing the climate crisis has never been clearer, an alarming trend persists: Fossil fuel companies are forging ahead with plans to expand their destructive infrastructure, potentially pushing humanity closer to climate catastrophe. An updated database released by Urgewald and numerous partner groups unveils a dire reality: More than 1,000 oil and gas companies worldwide are actively plotting to enlarge their planet-wrecking operations.

This comprehensive database, known as the Global Oil & Gas Exit List (GOGEL), encompasses 1,623 companies operating across the upstream, midstream, and gas-fired power sectors. Together, these companies are responsible for a staggering 95% of global oil and gas production. The updated GOGEL reveals that a staggering 1,023 of these companies are in the process of expanding their fossil fuel infrastructure, a move that could entrench years of planet-warming emissions.

As our planet grapples with the devastating consequences of the climate crisis, scientists have issued dire warnings that such expansion is entirely incompatible with our efforts to prevent catastrophic warming. The World Meteorological Organization’s recent announcement that global greenhouse gas concentrations reached another alarming high serves as a stark reminder of the urgency to act.

Nils Bartsch, the head of oil and gas research at Urgewald, aptly describes the magnitude of these expansion plans as “truly frightening.” To maintain the goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C, a rapid and managed reduction in both oil and gas production is imperative. However, the actions of oil and gas companies paint a different picture—one that resembles a bridge leading us further into the abyss of climate chaos.

The 2023 GOGEL data is particularly concerning, revealing that a staggering 96% of the 700 upstream oil and gas companies in the database are actively exploring or developing new oil and gas fields. These projects pose a grave threat to our collective efforts to curb global temperature rise and its catastrophic consequences.

Moreover, nearly 540 companies are collectively planning to produce a staggering 230 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe) over the short term, a figure that should send shockwaves throughout the environmental community. The largest expansion plans are led by Saudi Aramco, QatarEnergy, Gazprom, Petrobras, ADNOC, TotalEnergies, and ExxonMobil, collectively responsible for one-third of global short-term oil and gas expansion.

One of the most alarming revelations from the GOGEL database is the fossil fuel industry’s intention to expand global liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity by an astonishing 162 percent. This expansion poses a significant threat to critical climate targets and undermines global efforts to combat climate change. A recent United Nations-backed report sounded the alarm, suggesting that these expansion plans are “throwing humanity’s future into question.”

The spotlight is on the United States, as Urgewald points out that the country is solidifying its status as the world’s largest LNG export hub. Plans for 21 new LNG export facilities along the Gulf Coast account for more than 40 percent of the global LNG expansion documented in the GOGEL database. Notably, a significant portion of the fossil gas exported from these terminals originates from the Permian Basin, the heart of the U.S. fracking industry.

In the heart of the U.S. Southwest, nearly 80 companies, including industry giants like Exxon, Chevron, and BP, are currently operating in the Permian Basin. The expansion of LNG export hubs like Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2), a planned $10 billion project set to ship millions of tons of gas annually, has raised concerns not only for its environmental implications but also its impact on Indigenous sacred lands and the livelihoods of those working in fishing, shrimping, and eco-tourism.

Despite growing calls for immediate climate action, it’s disheartening to witness major fossil fuel producers doubling down on their production expansion plans. These actions defy the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists, who have repeatedly emphasized the need to leave existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground to combat the climate emergency.

As the world gears up for the COP28 summit, slated to address fossil fuel use and renewable energy, it’s crucial for nations to confront this alarming trend head-on. The data from the Global Oil and Gas Exit List serves as a stark reminder that many governments continue to prioritize fossil fuel production over their climate commitments, endangering our planet and the generations that will inherit the consequences of these decisions.

The evidence presented in the GOGEL underscores the urgent need for a global shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. The time for action is now, and it’s essential for nations to reevaluate their support for the fossil fuel industry. Our planet hangs in the balance, and the decisions made today will determine the future of our environment, our communities, and our shared commitment to combating climate change.

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