Development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year if the world is to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the leading energy organisation has said.
In a stark warning about the need to cut fossil fuel consumption, the International Energy Agency (IEA) called for a massive jump in investment in low carbon technologies: from 1.42tn a year today to £3.54 tn by 2030.
A 220+ page report, published this morning, is the IEA’s most comprehensive analysis of how to achieve net zero by 2050.
It sets 400 milestones for governments to reach, including:
- No new fossil-fuel powered cars after 2035
- Decarbonisation of global electricity generation by 2040
- No new fossil fuel boilers should be sold from 2025
On oil and gas, it said:
“There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net zero pathway.
“Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required.”
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said:
“If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.”
“More and more countries are coming up with net zero commitments, which is very good, but I see a huge and growing gap between the rhetoric [from governments] and the reality.”
The IEA report was written to inform discussions at the COP26 climate conference, chaired by the UK in Glasgow in November.
Unlike several European countries, the UK has committed to continued oil and gas exploration. In March, the UK government said North Sea licences would be offered, as long as projects passed a “climate compatibility” test. In September 2020, the Oil & Gas Authority offered 113 new offshore licence areas to 65 companies.
Onshore licences were last offered in the UK in 2015. Just a handful of planning applications have been made for exploration in these areas but there has been no drilling, mainly because of the ongoing moratorium on fracking.
Exploration for onshore oil and gas in previously-licensed areas is continuing in England. Rathlin Energy is seeking to drill an extra six wells at one of its oil and gas sites in East Yorkshire and add another two sites in the area.
UK Oil & Gas is pursuing planning applications in Surrey and the Isle of Wight. There are also applications being considered in Cheshire and Nottinghamshire (IGas), Lincolnshire (Egdon Resources) and Rotherham (Ineos).
Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP26, said in response to the IEA report:
“We must act now to scale up clean technologies in all sectors and phase out both coal power and polluting vehicles in the coming decade.
“Our first goal for the UK as COP26 presidency is to put the world on a path to driving down emissions, until they reach net zero by the middle of this century.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s just transition campaigner, Ryan Morrison, said:
“It is massive news that the IEA has recognised that new licenses for oil and gas are completely incompatible with our climate commitments.
“The report must be a trigger for the UK and Scottish Governments to bring workers and communities together to plan for a rapid but fair transition away from fossil fuels.
“Denmark, Ireland, Spain and New Zealand have already ended new licensing for fossil fuels. With COP26 in Glasgow later this year, all eyes will be on the UK and Scottish Government as they run out of excuses for their reckless support of the companies seeking yet more fossil fuels.”