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Report claims giant oil pipe expansions could ruin climate targets

More than 24,000km of new oil pipelines are under development globally, according to a new report. This is equivalent to almost twice the Earth’s diameter and puts us ‘dramatically at odds’ to achieve our climate goals.

Despite knowing full well that carbon emissions need halving by 2030 to remain under 1.5C of global warming, any real sense of urgency remains to be seen.

Infuriatingly, a recent report from Global Energy Monitor (GEM) has suggested that more than 24,000km of oil pipelines are under development around the world. This is fully detailed within its research paper amusingly titled the ‘Crude Awakening,’ which unfortunately is where the laughing stops.

In terms of scale, the data describes a fossil fuel boom so sizable that the combined length of all pipelines would stretch roughly twice the Earth’s diameter.

Around 40% of these projects – largely scattered between the US, Russia, China, and India – are already being constructed, and the remaining 60% are in the planning phase. GEM had foreseen an oil resurgence in its 2019 assessment, but grossly underestimated the sheer scope we’re looking at today.

Experts estimate that daily oil and gas profits top out at around a whopping $3bn.

Already struggling to break up with coal, India is reportedly the world leader for pipelines in development, including its 1,630km crude oil venture in the north-east slated for 2024.

In terms of planned operations, Sub-Saharan Africa intends to lay the largest volume of pipes globally – as close to 80% of its population is without access to clean cooking fuels and technologies.

Still facing boycotts from western nations over the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is continuing its fuel monopoly by increasing oil exports to India and China. This is said to involve a further 2,000km of crude pipelines.

Compiling the ecological impact of all new pipelines internationally, GEM claims that at least five billion tons of further greenhouse gas could be produced every year.

In any case, our obligation to stay under 1.5C of global warming would surely be scuppered. Understandably frustrated, GEM spokesperson Baird Langenbrunner described the findings as an ‘almost deliberate act of failure’ from governments to deliver on vital climate agreements.

The oil industry reportedly boasted record profits in the last year, and ‘is using this moment of chaos and crisis to push ahead with massive expansions of oil pipeline networks,’ he says.

As you can imagine, a frankly ridiculous sum of investment hinges on this drive going ahead. GEM estimates that oil developers collectively face asset risks of up to $75 billion, as global leaders supposedly transition to low-carbon solutions and renewables. Come on karma, do your thing.

On a serious note, it appears we’re truly on the cusp of a make-or-break moment for the Paris Agreement. It’s unacceptable – and some would argue gravely predictable – that we’ve ended up in this situation in what is basically the home stretch.

The fact that COP27 is a matter of weeks away just adds insult to injury, and justifies the general feeling of trepidation and nihilism that superseded Glasgow’s summit. With these developments circulating, you can guarantee protests will be even more raucous in Egypt.