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UN report labels future fossil fuel ventures ‘insanity’ projects

The world’s biggest petrostates, including Saudia Arabia, the US, and the UAE are planning major expansions to fossil fuel projects. The UN has called these agendas a move of ‘insanity’ that would ‘throw humanity’s future into question.’

You know what else this world needs? A lot more carbon emissions.

Well, not exactly. Not at all, actually. And yet, that seems to be the continued thought process inside the brains of leaders in charge of petrostates.

The UN – which seems to do a lot of talking and not a lot of doing these days – has released a new report about the world’s fossil fuel producers planning expansions for projects that would ‘blow the planet’s carbon budget twice over’.

These projects involve ramping up the production of coal, oil, and gas across India, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, as well as the UAE, US, and Canada. It’s no secret that in recent years, the latter three have made major moves to become major oil producers.

Considering that the use of fossil fuels for energy has been listed as the number one cause of climate change, the UN labelling these plans ‘insanity’ seems pretty on the mark.

Along with contradicting global efforts to mitigate environmental destruction, these plans contradict emission reduction targets set out by each of these countries at previous climate summits. So let’s see how serious these plans could be.

Projections of the projects

If the plans are to go ahead, activity related to fossil fuels will boom significantly.

In the context of keeping emission levels low enough to prevent global heating from surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius, there would be 460 percent more coal production, 83 percent more gas production, and 29 percent more oil production by 2030 than these guidelines allow.

A growing body of scientific work has already warned that the commencement of any new oil or gas projects would make our chances of keeping global heating below 1.5C virtually impossible.

Recognising this reality, 196 nations signed the 2015 Paris Agreement which legally binds them to weaken their reliance on emission-heavy energy sources and transition to cleaner renewable sources, amongst other climate mitigation strategies.

So what’s up with these new fossil fuel plans then? In the words of Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UN environment programme, ‘Governments must stop saying one thing and doing another.’


Some governments are on the right track

The UN report states that only four countries have set their future paths that would see their overall emissions from fossil fuels fall. These countries are the UK, China, Norway and Germany.

It seems that other nations – especially those launching new projects – are riskily depending on future CO2 capture and storage technology, which is still in its early stages of development.

The report also points out how launching new oil and gas projects is a gamble in itself, as much of the world looks to decarbonise their energy systems. These projects could become a bad investment that ends up losing producers billions of dollars.

If most nations adapt their energy grids to renewables and people begin to favour electric cars – who will be buying all the oil and gas? It’s likely that buyers would be nations in the Global South, as they have been unable to form green transition plans in light of having to repay their national debts to wealthy lenders.

In this scenario, it seems that fossil fuels will expand global disparity even further. Rich country uses clean energy, poor nation relies on outdated and dirty fossil fuels.

The fact that leaders are even plotting expansions of fossil fuel projects in 2023 is pretty disgraceful. At least we have COP28 in Saudia Arabia to look forward to, right?