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New research shows that nearly 40% of developed fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to keep the global 1.5ºC target alive says Collin Rees of Oil Change International in his recent email to contacts. Rees is referring to the Environmental Research Letters’ new study that provides a strong evidence base for policies to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

40% of Developed Fossil Fuel Reserves Must Stay in the Ground, Below2C
Image from Social Media Kit for the launch of the Environmental Research Letters study

(This article is sourced from the Colin Rees email to contacts and the Social Media Kit for the launch of the Environmental Research Letters study.)

Fossil Fuel Reserves (Coal, Oil & Gas) Must Stay in the Ground

It is the first peer-reviewed study to assess the carbon emissions ‘lock in’ threat specifically from the oil, gas, and coal reserves within active fields and mines globally.This means  reserves in the oil and gas fields and coal mines that are already producing or under development — where the wells have been drilled and the pits dug, the machinery built and billions of dollars invested. The new paper focuses on this subset of reserves, because these are the most subject to ‘carbon lock-in’ and conversely will create the largest stranded assets.

Key findings & messages: (source – Social Media Toolkit for new peer-reviewed study)

Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C — The Guardian

  • Already developed oil, gas, and coal extraction could push the world well beyond 1.5°C and jeopardize staying well below 2°C. Committed emissions from developed fossil fuel reserves add up to 936 GtCO2, compared to a remaining 1.5°C carbon budget of just 580 GtCO2 as of 2018 (the baseline year of the study).
  • Nearly 40% of reserves within existing fields and mines should stay in the ground to keep warming below 1.5°C. Any new development of oil, gas or coal would either push the world further beyond climate limits, require stranding more assets, and/or risk reliance on large-scale carbon removal.
  • Halting new fossil fuel licensing and extraction, as recently recommended by the International Energy Agency, is not enough. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early to stay below 1.5°C.

Using data collected over 2 years from +25,000 existing oil and gas fields and coal mines, the researchers found that committed emissions are 60% larger than the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C — and exhaust the remaining budget for staying well below 2°C, the upper bound of the Paris Agreement.

Image from Social Media Kit for the launch of the Environmental Research Letters study

The release is the first peer-reviewed study to confirm the International Energy Agency’s finding that no new fields or mines should be developed under a 1.5ºC warming limit. However, it goes further. While stopping development of new fields and mines is necessary, it is not sufficient: In the absence of large-scale carbon capture or removal, some existing fields and mines must be decommissioned early.

“Ceasing new oil, gas, and coal development is not enough – already built extraction facilities must be prematurely decommissioned.” – Environmental Research Letters study

The Guardian adds to the weight of the new study:

“The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.” — The Guardian

“The new research reaches its starker conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble.” — The Guardian

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