climate change

As COP26 begins, 40 UK fossil fuel projects are awaiting approval 

Photo credit: Friends of the Earth.

By Anders Lorenzen

As COP26 begins in Glasgow, a study carried out by Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) and the New Economics Foundation has revealed that fossil fuel companies are preparing to seek approval for 40 new UK coal, oil and gas extraction projects by 2025.

At odds with UK’s climate commitments

The research, published as a part of the report Tip of the Iceberg: The future of fossil fuel extraction, found that 30 offshore oil and gas projects, as well as seven onshore developments and three coal mines, are currently in the pipeline in the UK. If these projects were to be approved they would be at direct odds with the UK’s own, as well as international, climate commitments. Combined, these projects are projected to emit almost triple the UK’s yearly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over their lifespan, equivalent to 1.3bn metric tonnes of CO2.

Controversial projects

Currently, three controversial fossil fuel projects are under consideration in the UK: a proposed oil field off the coast of the Shetland islands, an oil extraction project in the Surrey Hills and a proposed deep coal mine in Cumbria in northern England – the first new UK coal mine for 30 years. These projects would emit four times more GHG emissions than the entire UK car fleet produces in one year (295 million tonnes CO2).

The report also explores to what extent the UK continues to support fossil fuel extraction overseas. Estimates have found that a mega gas project in Mozambique in which the UK government has pledged $1.15bn towards could emit up to 4.5bn tonnes of GHG emissions over its lifecycle – more than the combined GHG emissions of all 27 EU countries.

End fossil fuel support

As a result, EWNI and the New Economics Foundation are calling on the UK government to end its support for fossil fuels both at home and abroad by ruling out any new developments and withdrawing its support for the Mozambique liquified natural gas (LNG) project. In addition, they argue that a roadmap that sets out how they intend to phase out developed fossil fuel extraction would help to prove that the government’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis is more than just placatory words.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Danny Gross said: “The science is clear that to prevent climate breakdown, no new coal, oil or gas extraction projects can be approved. The government is failing to listen to this simple truth. It’s going to be an embarrassing UN climate conference for the Prime Minister if he doesn’t end support for new fossil fuel extraction projects, here and elsewhere, immediately.”

Rebekah Diski, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation added: “Yet again, the government’s actions undermine its lofty words on climate. It says it wants to ‘keep 1.5C alive’, but as this report shows it is supporting new fossil fuel projects at home and abroad, which are completely incompatible with that target.”  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that no new fossil fuels developments should be approved if the ambitions of keeping a temperature increases below 1.5C are to be met.

Earlier this week a landmark study found that the vast majority of coal, oil and oil must remain in the ground if we are to achieve 1.5C.

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