Fossil fuel expansion has reached the sky’s limit, says new report


If you’re in a hole, stop digging. That’s the conclusion of a new study released by Oil Change International, in partnership with 14 organisations from around the world including 350.org, Christian Aid and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

The report, entitled ‘The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production’, provides strong scientific evidence to support the growing movement to keep carbon in the ground, of which Bright Now is a part.

It demonstrates not only that all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion must come to an end, but also that to have a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement, we need to wind down not only existing coal mines, but also some oil and gas fields, before their reserves are used up.

“There are only three possibilities here”, said report author Greg Muttitt of Oil Change International. “We can manage the decline of our existing fields, shifting to clean energy and redeploying workers. Or we continue to develop new reserves that then have to be shut down suddenly, stranding assets, costing investors, and causing havoc in fossil fuel extraction dependent communities. Or we just carry on as we are – and wreak economic, ecological and human catastrophe on the world.”

Key findings of the report include:
• The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
• The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
• With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.

The report makes the following recommendations:
• No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
• Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
• This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.

We believe this report provides Churches with the evidence required to conclude that it is morally, and economically, unjustifiable to continue to finance fossil fuel expansion.