Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion are participating in a Rise and Rebel march organized to coincide with the end and anticipated failure of the COP26 climate summit on November 13, 2021 in London, UK.
Mark Kerrison | in pictures | Getty Images
Climate activists and campaign groups seek to abruptly end the fossil fuel era, condemning the latest round of net zero commitments from many governments and companies as a smokescreen that does not meet the demands of the climate emergency.
Calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground are anathema to oil and gas executives, who insist the world will continue to “crave all sources of energy” for years to come.
Certainly, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, is the main driver of the climate crisis, and researchers have repeatedly stressed that the best weapon to combat rising global temperatures is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. .
Yet even though politicians and business leaders publicly recognize the need to switch to renewable alternatives, current political trends show that dirty fuels are not going away – or even going down – anytime soon.
Tom Goldtooth, climate activist and executive director of the North American Indigenous Environmental Network, described burning fossil fuels as the equivalent of filling a tub with too much water. “It’s overflowing with too much carbon. The world can no longer absorb it.
“The simple solution, which we always demand, is for the world to turn the valve off,” Goldtooth said. His comments came as he was speaking at the People’s Summit for Climate Justice, an event hosted by the COP26 Coalition on the sidelines of the Glasgow summit in November.
A worker sprays water to help deal with pollution caused by truck and coal loading activity at a coal mine on November 23, 2021 in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Ritesh Shukla | Getty Images News | Getty Images
“The net zero solution is not a solution,” he said. “It’s not going to get this world to where we need to go, it’s not going to get us to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
To have any chance of capping global warming at the 1.5 degree Celsius target, the ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world must almost halve greenhouse gas emissions over the next 8 years and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
It’s a huge business, and the world’s leading climatologists have warned that it will have to undergo “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” in all aspects of society.
The world has already warmed by around 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and the latest projections, despite numerous pledges at COP26 in early November, show that global warming is on track for a rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
At COP26, the so-called Glasgow Climate Pact sought to build on the Paris Agreement and prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis, although it came under heavy criticism over the coal “phase-out” plans, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support to income countries.
The US Energy Information Administration noted in its International Energy Outlook 2021 in early October that renewable energy sources will likely be the main source of new electricity generation through 2050, but fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal will continue to be used to help to meet the load and support the reliability of the network.
This comes at a time when the total amount of renewable energy available is increasing, but not as rapidly as the increase in global energy demand as a whole.
Fossil fuels accounted for over 80% of global energy consumption in 2019, according to compiled data by Our World in Data, while renewables such as wind and solar accounted for 11.4%.
Nick Stansbury, head of climate solutions at Legal and General Investment Management, one of Europe’s largest asset managers, said he believes the oil and gas giants will have a “really big” role to play in energy transition.
“We clearly believe that the outlook for oil and gas demand over the next 30 years will not be close to what it looked like in the past 30 years. This industry no longer operates where demand continues to grow steadily every single year barring financial crises or recessions, ”Stansbury told CNBC’s“ Street Signs Europe ”earlier this month.
“But, even in the most aggressive transition scenarios, you don’t see the demand for oil and gas disappear overnight. Yes, industry needs to invest less money, but oil and gas will almost certainly still be consumed around the world 30 years from now.
Stansbury said the energy giants “are going to have a really, really important and very positive role to play, both for us as investors in providing us with a lot, a lot of juicy cash flow – us the let’s hope – but also for the world because we can’t just turn the oil and gas industry over overnight and make the world go round.
OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo (left), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman (center) and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak (right) attend an Opec-JMMC meeting in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, on September 12, 2019.
KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images
OPEC, an influential producer group that produces around 40% of the world’s crude oil, has said the narrative that the energy transition is shifting from fossil fuels to renewables is “misleading and potentially dangerous.”
In remarks to delegates meeting at COP26 on November 10, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said failure to listen to all voices on issues such as reducing emissions, affordability of energy and security could have unintended consequences. These include market distortions, increased volatility and energy shortages.
All of these examples are already evident today, however, and at a time when the global energy mix is still dominated by fossil fuels.
Researchers and environmental economists have called attempts to present the oil and gas giants as the answer to the energy transition as “”fossil fuel solutionism. “This term refers to the message that promotes ineffective solutions and distracts attention from more effective measures.
Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency released the the world’s first comprehensive roadmap building a global energy sector with net zero emissions by 2050.
The IEA said in May that there could be no further development of oil, gas or coal if the world were to reach net zero by mid-century. He added that the government’s promises at the time were “well below” what would be needed to reach net zero.
Technologies such as carbon capture, use, storage and sequestration feature prominently in countries’ climate plans as well as in the net zero strategies of some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.
Fossil fuel proponents argue that it is these carbon capture technologies that can enable countries and businesses to continue to burn fossil fuels.
However, this is dismissed by climate researchers, activists, and environmental groups, who argue that these programs provide cover for heavily polluting actors to continue with a status quo approach.
“Compensation is a huge scam, it’s a huge problem,” said Sara Shaw, international program coordinator for climate justice and energy at Friends of the Earth International, an environmental group.
“And next to that we have nature-based solutions, which sounds so appealing. We see him a lot as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sounds really good, but in reality it’s another kind of repackaging the net-zero, offsets, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation by planting trees and creating carbon sinks. It’s the same, but it was made to look very attractive.
“I think in order to understand where nature-based solutions are coming from, look at who is promoting them,” Shaw said. “It’s the oil companies and other big polluters and so to me it’s a real telltale sign that it’s not what it seems.”
Shaw said the net-zero promises of many governments and international companies were largely “tinkering around the edges” of the real problem. “They just need to stop burning fossil fuels. They have to get out of this business [and] they must effect this systemic transformation.
Working oil pumps against a sunset sky.
Imaginima | E + | Getty Images
Teresa Anderson, Climate Policy Coordinator at ActionAid International, a development charity, said: “All of these assumptions about net-zero are really based on the assumptions that net-zero is necessary and sufficient to achieve target of 1.5. And of course, it’s neither.
“It’s understandable that there can be some confusion because net zero looks like zero,” Anderson said. “But actually, net zero by 2050, which fits most of these target announcements, all that really means is that in 2050, so in 30 years, this government or this company will make up for what it pollutes that year. It doesn’t say anything about what they’re doing for the next decade to stop polluting now. “
“If you scratch the surface of most of these net zero goals a little bit, you’ll find that there is none of the drastic systemic transformation that we need,” Anderson said.
She described net zero goals as an “accounting trick” that legitimizes a standstill approach, enables greenwashing and supports land grabbing in southern countries.