The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Nicole Rodel, Oil Change International – (CET)
Valentina Stackl, Oil Change International – (ET)

New Research Exposes 5 Global North Countries Responsible for 51% of Planned Oil and Gas Expansion Through 2050

Only 20 countries, led overwhelmingly by the United States, are responsible for nearly 90 percent of the carbon-dioxide (CO2) pollution threatened by new oil and gas fields and fracking wells planned between 2023 and 2050. If this oil and gas expansion [1] is allowed to proceed, it would lock in climate chaos and an unlivable future, according to Planet Wreckers, a new report by Oil Change International.

The research is released days ahead of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, where more than 10,000 people will march in protest of inaction against fossil fuels. Guterres has called for countries to show up with commitments to stop oil and gas expansion and plan a phase out of existing production in line with the 1.5°C limit.

If these 20 countries, which the report dubs “Planet Wreckers”, halted their planned new oil and gas extraction, 173 billion tonnes (Gt) of carbon pollution would be kept in the ground. This is equivalent to the lifetime pollution of nearly 1,100 new coal plants, or more than 30 years of annual U.S. carbon emissions. On top of oil and gas extraction from already operating sites worldwide, this amount of new carbon pollution would make it impossible to hold temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Five global north countries with the greatest economic means and moral responsibility to rapidly phase out production are responsible for a majority (51%) of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050: the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

Key Findings:

  • Analysis shows just 20 countries are responsible for nearly 90% of carbon dioxide pollution threatened by new oil and gas extraction projects between 2023 and 2050 — with top ‘climate hypocrites’ the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom accounting for a majority.
  • If these 20 Planet Wreckers followed the call from UN Secretary General Guterres to stop new oil and gas fields and licensing, the equivalent to the lifetime carbon pollution of 1,100 new coal plants would be kept in the ground
  • The United States is Planet Wrecker In Chief, accounting for more than one-third of planned global oil and gas expansion through 2050.
  • Oil and gas expansion by the 20 Planet Wrecker countries would make it impossible to hold temperature rise to 1.5°C.

The United States is “Planet Wrecker-In-Chief”, accounting for more than one-third of CO2 pollution from planned global oil and gas expansion through 2050.[2] The United States is already the largest producer of oil and gas in the world and the largest historical climate polluter.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), this year’s host of crucial UN negotiations, is also set to be one of the largest expanders of oil and gas production despite pledging to use its COP presidency to “keep 1.5°C alive”.

Oil and gas expansion from the 20 countries would make it impossible to hold temperature rise to 1.5°C. Even extracting just the fossil fuels from existing sites globally would result in 140% more carbon pollution than the allowed budget for 1.5°C. If these countries proceed with new extraction, committed carbon pollution from fossil fuel production will be 190% over the 1.5°C budget, risking locking in more than a dangerous 2°C of warming, and an unlivable future for all.

Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy lead and report co-author at Oil Change International, said: “It’s simple: when you are in a hole, the first step is to stop digging. The climate crisis is global in nature – but is atrociously unjust. A handful of the world’s richest nations’ are risking our future by willingly ignoring the calls to rapidly phase out fossil fuels. Despite very clear science telling us what is in store beyond 1.5°C, these so-called climate leaders are planning for climate chaos. Continuing to increase fossil fuel production anywhere is not compatible with a liveable future and has been rightly called “moral and economic madness” by UN Secretary General Guterres. All countries must show up to the UN Climate Ambition Summit with plans to stop oil and gas expansion immediately, but these five countries have the additional responsibility to move first and fastest to phase out their production, and pay their fair share to fund a just global energy transition. The world is watching, and those intent on leading us into disaster will be held accountable.”

Julia Levin, Associate Director, National Climate, Environmental Defence Canada said: “Canada has been rightly exposed as one of the worst polluters on the planet, as a result of its plans to increase oil and gas production. It has been a devastating summer for people across Canada, who have lost their lives, their homes and their communities as a result of climate disasters. Yet governments in Canada are throwing fuel on the fire by expanding oil and gas production, while the federal government drags its feet on new rules that would cap and cut emissions from the oil and gas sector. Further delay in reducing oil and gas pollution is inexcusable.”

Tessa Khan, Executive Director at Uplift, said: “We’re often told that the UK is a climate leader, but this confirms that we’re now part of a tiny club of countries that are having an outsized role in driving the climate crisis. We know we cannot keep opening up new oil and gas fields if we want a habitable world, yet that is exactly what this government is doing.

Rishi Sunak needs to stop bowing to the demands of the fossil fuel firms, who continue to rake in obscene profits while millions of us cannot afford to heat our homes.

What’s worse is that we don’t need to be part of this wrecking club. The UK has renewable resources in abundance, enough to provide us with a cheaper, clean supply of energy. Oil and gas companies cannot be allowed to influence the UK’s energy or climate policies any longer.”

James Sherley, Climate Justice Campaigner at Jubilee Australia, said: “Despite the reality of the climate crisis the Australian government continues to facilitate the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. In recent years Australians have been devastated by the most severe bushfires and floods in our history, it is inconceivable that our taxpayer dollars are still propping up the industry causing this destruction. By signing the Glasgow Statement the government can end its support for fossil fuel exports and redirect that integral capital into the clean energy revolution. This is just one step Australia must take if we are to rebuild some credibility on global climate action, especially pertinent considering our bid to host COP31 with our Pacific Islands neighbors.”

Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, said: “This report confirms that Norway is on a highway to climate hell. The science could not be more clear: There is no room for a single drop of oil from new fields. Yet, the state is spending billions on exploring for ever more resources, even in the vulnerable arctic.”

Caroline Brouillette, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada, said: “From heatwaves to wildfires to floods, Canadians have experienced devastating climate impacts this summer – all of which are linked to fossil fuels. Pollution from Canada’s oil and gas sector has risen unchecked for decades, and the sector is still planning further expansion, actively destroying our chance at a safe and healthy future. Fossil fuel companies won’t clean up their act on their own: Canada needs a strong and ambitious emissions cap to ensure the oil and gas industry finally takes responsibility.”

Helen Mancini, 16 year old Fridays For Future from New York City, said: “The Planet-Wreckers report presents unmistakable evidence of the peril of fossil fuel expansion while reckoning with the world’s historic polluters, namely the United States, and how we must hold them accountable. The activism youth are doing is not radical, it’s a demand for survival that the Planet-Wreckers must heed.”

Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Coordinator for Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) said: “Australia’s treachery is once again laid bare for all to see. This report cuts through the supposed change in rhetoric on climate by the Albanese Government and exposes Australia for what it truly is: a captive of the fossil fuel industry shackled to its insidious agenda.

It’s unfathomable that the Australian government continues to stoke the flames of the climate crisis, despite the brutal scars of unprecedented bushfires and floods etched into its landscape, and with full knowledge of the profound impacts that the fossil fuel industry inflicts upon First Nations communities and the Pacific.

With the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C rapidly closing, a global fossil fuel phase out that is fast, fair and funded must be our paramount priority. Pacific Leaders must strongly insist on Australia to course correct before lending its support to the COP31 bid.”

Oil Change International is a research, communications, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the ongoing transition to clean energy.

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