Proposed gas strategy is a gamble with the climate
If I wear a funny hat and call myself ”natural” maybe no one will realise that I am fossil? Flickr.com / clarkmaxwell CC-BY-NC-ND
The EU, Norway and Russia are all promoting fossil gas as a long-term clean and sustainable energy solution. “There’s no such thing as clean gas”, says Friends of the Earth Europe.
The European Parliament voted in October 2016 in favour of a EU strategy to promote LNG and gas storage. The decision, likely influenced by big oil and gas corporations according to FoE Europe, will lock Europe into decades of fossil fuel use, and open the doors to carbon-intensive imports like shale gas – which can be as harmful for the climate as coal. Antoine Simon from FoE Europe said: “There’s no such thing as clean gas – it’s a fossil fuel with climate-killing carbon and methane emissions. They’re playing Russian roulette with the climate, and completely ignoring the implications of the Paris Agreement for our energy sector.”
The European Parliament prioritises subsidies for, and investments in, dirty fossil gas, and the infrastructure required for them, to the detriment of renewables and energy efficiency. The emphasis on liquefied natural gas (LNG) encourages further imports of gas to the EU. Antoine Simon continued: “This decision opens the door to carbon-intensive fracked gas, especially from the US, which is linked to devastating local environmental and social impacts. Europe urgently needs to transition away from fossil fuels towards community-owned renewables and energy efficiency.”
Norway is also promoting fossil gas. It wants other countries to leave their coal and oil in the ground to meet new global climate change targets, but its industry is planning to increase production of its own fossil fuels, says the British newspaper The Guardian.
The Norwegian oil and gas association argues “if Europe were to replace coal with Norwegian natural gas, this would result in a 50 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions for every unit of energy produced. We produce gas with low emissions, which can replace coal with high emissions.” Despite the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and oil prices falling to under $30 a barrel, Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer intends to expand production in some of the riskiest and most environmentally sensitive areas like the Lofoten Islands and the Arctic Ocean north of Norway.
“The government is hypocritical and in denial over Paris. It does not think it is any brake on oil. They say our oil is cleaner and that the EU needs us. Meanwhile it is lobbying in Europe against stronger energy efficiency laws. There seem to be no limits on the Norwegian oil industry. They want to keep on expanding,” said Silje Lundberg, of Friends of the Earth Norway.
Norway intends to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2030. However, it is one of very few wealthy countries to have increased emissions since 1990. State statistics bureau SSB has stated that Norway’s oil industry accounted for 27 per cent of all carbon emissions in Norway in 2013. Annual emissions from oil and gas production have increased by 91 per cent since 1990.
Russia and other countries are also promoting the building of new gas pipelines in the north-east and south-east of Europe. Critics like the NGO network Bankwatch and FOE Europe argue EU funding for the Southern Gas Corridor energy project would undermine EU climate change targets. The European Investment Bank (EIB), which is owned by European Union member states, is about to provide the scheme with up to €3 billion.
Natural gas comprises a substantial percentage of human carbon emissions, and this contribution is projected to grow. According to IPCC, fossil gas produced about 5 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced about 10 billion tons each (2005). According to emission scenarios by 2030, fossil gas would be the source of around 11 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year.
AirClim argues that all use of fossil fuels including fossil gas must be phased out in Europe by 2030. This should be Europe’s contribution to give the world a chance to stay below 1.5°C of global warming while giving developing countries more time to phase out their fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest.
Compiled by Reinhold Pape
Source: FOE Europe press release, 25 October 2016, https://www.foeeurope.org/winter-package-russian-roulette-climate-251016
The Guardian, Norwegian industry plans to up fossil fuel production despite Paris pledge, 29 January 2026, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/29/norwegian-industry-p...
IPCC AR https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/
See also AirClim report from March 2016: Phasing out fossil gas, by Fredrik Lundberg http://airclim.org/publications/reports