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No New Fossil Fuel Projects Needed In The Transition To Net Zero, Study Finds

A new study by researchers from University College London (UCL) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) finds that there is “no room for new fossil fuel projects in a 1.5°C-aligned world”.

At the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in late 2023, 198 governments officially recognised the urgency to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems” in order to reach net zero targets by 2050.

However, oil and gas producers continue to expand exploration and drill for resources, and are being supported by governments. Indeed, the Australian government recently released a strategy outlining how the country will ramp up production and use of gas until ‘2050 and beyond’ .

According to IISD figures, governments collectively expect to produce 29% more oil and 82% more gas by 2030 than is consistent with a 1.5°C global warming pathway. By 2050, the gap widens to 260% for oil and 210% for gas.

However, a new study carried out by IISD, alongside UCL researchers, has found that existing fossil fuel projects are sufficient to meet anticipated global energy demands in the transition period to net zero.

Published in the journal Science, the study analysed the projected future global demand for oil and gas production, as well as coal- and gas-fired power generation, using a broad range of scenarios that limit global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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The researchers concluded that new coal, oil and gas projects are not needed in the transition period to net zero by 2050, with clean energy production projects ramping up. As such, they call on governments to stop issuing new oil, gas and coal licences.

They argue that establishing a “no new fossil fuels” policy – preventing new projects for the exploration and extraction of coal, oil or natural gas reserves – would be less costly, face fewer legal hurdles, and be politically easier than trying to phase out existing capacity early. This prevention would also help to build a global norm against new fossil fuel projects.

“Importantly, our research establishes that there is a rigorous scientific basis for the proposed norm by showing that there is no need for new fossil fuel projects,” said Steve Pye of the UCL Energy Institute, a study co-author.

“The clarity that this norm brings should help focus policy on targeting the required ambitious scaling of renewable and clean energy investment, whilst managing the decline of fossil fuel infrastructure in an equitable and just way,” he added.

Greg Muttitt, senior associate at the IISD and study co-author, said: “Our research draws on a large range of scientific evidence, including climate scenarios from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], but its message to governments and fossil fuel companies is very simple: There is no room for new fossil fuel projects in a 1.5°C-aligned world.”

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Source; E&T

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