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World's Dirtiest Energy Projects Could Push Climate Past 'Point of No Return'

World leaders urged to end support for industrial 'climate bombs'

- Beth Brogan, staff writer

Global leaders should be ashamed of their approval and ongoing support for "climate-changing mega projects" underway in countries around the world, said Greenpeace on Tuesday as the international environmental group released a new report showing that if such dirty energy strategies continue the world's climate system could be pushed beyond the "point of no return."

The "shameful" decision of international leaders to allow 14 specific projects is emphasized in the new report, Point of No Return: The Massive Climate Threats We Must Avoid, which was published just as business, civil society and government leaders head to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

The "climate bomb" projects highlighted in the report "are the direct result of the hypocrisy shown by a handful of governments," Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.

"These governments claim they want to prevent catastrophic climate change, but shamefully continue to approve and promote major fossil fuel projects that will lead to climate chaos and devastation," he said.

According to the report (pdf), the dirty energy projects include coal expansion in China, Australia, Indonesia and the US; fracking in Canada, the US and Venezuela; Arctic drilling for oil and gas; and deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil.

The projects would produce as much carbon dioxide emissions as the entire US—a total of 300 billion tonnes of new emissions—by 2050, according to research by consulting company Ecofys.

More urgently, by 2020 the projects would raise global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels by 20 percent and "keep the world on a path towards 5° to 6° C of warming"—or what scientists refer to as "the point of no return."

In November, the International Energy Agency and the World Bank warned that the earth's temperature was already on track to rise between 3.6° and 4° C.

"We are running out of time to prevent catastrophic climate change," Naidoo said. "The companies promoting and the governments allowing these massive climate threats must replace them with renewable energy right away and become part of the solution to climate chaos."

Should the 14 projects be cancelled, however, Ecofys estimates a 75 percent chance of avoiding "climate chaos."

In the report, Greenpeace identifies a path to avoid "climate chaos" through a global energy scenario including reducing demand for oil and increasing renewable energy—including solar, wind, ocean and geothermal. But the report notes that the plan must be supported by governments that must "rein in investments in dirty fossil fuels."

"The fossil fuel industry is diversifying and finding new ways to extract resources, often in toxic and dangerous ways," Georgina Woods, lead campaigner for Greenpeace Australia, told The Guardian. "This is a last-ditch push by these companies to entrench themselves in a changing energy market. Countries which have agreed [at UN climate talks] that the 2C tipping point can't be passed should not allow these projects to go ahead."

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