Action outside COP23 “gas is unsustainable in sustainable, fossil-free future”. Photo: Friends of the Earth International - Flickr.com/CC BY-NC-ND
Fossil gas is not a bridge to a clean energy future
The climate cannot afford Europe’s gas addiction and NGOs are campaigning strongly against fossil gas projects.
Civil society organisations are trying to stop the building of new fossil gas fired power stations and pipelines all over Europe. Special efforts have also been made in recent months to stop the establishment of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in various harbours in European countries, for instance in Gothenburg, Sweden. One of the business plans is that fossil gas from fracking in the USA, from Norway and the Middle-East is exported to Europe and is used by countries that are not so well connected to international fossil gas pipelines. The transportation of LNG increases its climate change impact by an average of 20 per cent and up to 134 per cent, says Friends of the Earth Europe, which recently released a new scientific study. It also answers the question of whether fossil gas offers a solution for compliance with the climate Paris Agreement objectives and could serve as a transition fuel.
“Recent empirical studies of fossil fuel producing areas have found official methane emissions levels reported by governments to be large underestimates: On average, official inventories would be between 50 and 60 per cent below actual levels of emissions. Methane emissions are at dangerously high levels, as high as the ‘top end’ of IPCC scenarios,’’ says the study.
The study argues that “the Paris Agreement and equity commitments demand a minimum reduction in EU energy-only carbon emissions of around 95 per cent by 2035, which means no substantial role beyond 2035 for fossil fuels – including natural gas – in an EU energy system compatible with staying below 2°C.”
The study, conducted by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, shows “that EU countries can afford just nine more years of burning gas and other fossil fuels at the current rate before they will have exhausted their share of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget for maximum temperature rises of 2°C. Even with a managed phase-out, fossil fuels including natural gas, can have no substantial role beyond 2035 in an EU energy system compatible with 2°C. The findings are a stark reminder of the urgency with which Europe, as a region historically responsible for climate change, needs to shift to an energy system free from fossil fuels”.
This warning comes as the EU is poised to publish a list of 55 new major gas projects it is considering for public funding. In the last three years, the EU has granted more than one billion euro in public finance to gas projects.
The analysis says that “there is categorically no role for bringing additional fossil fuel reserves, including gas, into production. Considering both carbon dioxide and methane emissions, an urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU is an imperative of any scientifically informed and equity-based policies designed to deliver on the Paris Agreement.”
“Europe needs to urgently quit gas if it is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to internationally agreed levels”, the new science shows. Under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, gas and other fossil fuels would need to be phased out even faster. Because of the high levels of both CO2 and methane emissions throughout the gas lifecycle, the authors conclude that “an urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU is an imperative”. Jagoda Munic, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Europe’s infatuation with gas is totally incompatible with serious action on climate change. The oil and gas industry is going all out to paint gas as green and keep us hooked on fossil fuels, but the truth is there is absolutely no room for gas in the transition we need to a clean energy future. Europe needs to urgently get off all fossil fuels, realise the full potential of energy savings, and go for a 100 per cent renewable system in the hands of people.” Professor Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Teesside University, said: “If the EU is to transform its energy system to align with the Paris temperature and equity commitments, it cannot continue with business as usual and must instead initiate a rapid phase out of all fossil fuels including natural gas. This needs to begin now and be complete within the coming two decades.”
This is not such a difficult task since energy production from sun and wind is already cheaper than that from fossil gas.
Source: “Can the climate afford Europe’s gas addiction?” by Friends of the Earth Europe; the research report, “Natural gas and climate change”, by Anderson and Broderick, Brussels, 7 November 2017