FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES are planning to seek approval for 40 damaging new coal, oil and gas extraction projects in the UK by 2025, a new study has found.

According to research from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) and the New Economics Foundation, 30 offshore oil and gas projects, as well as seven onshore developments and three coal mines, are currently in the pipeline across the country, despite their incompatibility with global efforts to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

The findings, published as part of the report Tip of the Iceberg: The future of fossil fuel extraction  lay bare the UK’s continued support for coal, oil and gas at home and overseas as it hosts the international climate talks in Glasgow. Combined, these 40 developments are projected to emit almost triple the UK’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions over their lifespan; equivalent to 1.3billion metric tonnes of CO2. Not only is this at odds with the government’s claimed climate agenda, but a report  it commissioned by the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that no new fossil fuel developments should be approved if ambitions to keep global heating below 1.5C are to be met.

The authors of a landmark study which found that the vast majority of coal, oil and gas must remain in the ground to make 1.5C a reality, said that the UK government must “immediately halt any new extraction projects.”

Three controversial fossil fuel projects currently under consideration in the UK include:

  • A proposed oilfield off the coast of Shetland
  • An oil extraction project in the Surrey Hills
  • A proposed deep coal mine in Cumbria, which would be the UK’s first for 30 years

Analysed for their combined climate impacts, they could emit four times more climate-wrecking greenhouse gases than all the UK’s cars produce in a year, the same as 295 million tonnes of CO2.

The new report also explores how the UK continues to support fossil fuel extraction overseas. New estimates have found that a gas mega-project in Mozambique, which the government pledged $1.15billion towards, could emit up to 4.5 billion tonnes of climate-wrecking greenhouse gases over its lifecycle, more than the combined annual greenhouse gas emissions of all 27 EU countries. Funding this project only exacerbates the climate impacts faced by one of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries.

That is why Friends of the Earth and the New Economics Foundation are calling on the UK government to end its support for fossil fuels at home and overseas once and for all, by ruling out all new developments and withdrawing financial support for the Mozambique liquified natural gas (LNG) project. A roadmap detailing how it intends to phase out developed fossil fuel extraction would also prove that its so-called commitment to curbing climate catastrophe is more than mere words.

And as a country better equipped to transition away from coal, oil and gas than poorer nations, it is even more important that the UK does its fair share to phase out fossil fuels quickly, and support other countries to do the same.

Danny Gross, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The science is clear that to prevent climate breakdown, no new coal, oil or gas extraction projects can be approved. The government is failing to listen to this simple truth.

“It’s in the industry’s interests to push through new developments because it knows the writing is on the wall, but it’s up to government to put our ailing planet and the people on it first.

“It’s going to be an embarrassing UN climate conference for the Prime Minister if he doesn’t end support for new fossil fuel extraction projects, here and elsewhere, immediately. The UK can’t sit on its high horse demanding other countries reduce emissions without doing the right thing first.”

Rebekah Diski, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: “Yet again, the government’s actions undermine its lofty words on climate. It says it wants to ‘keep 1.5C alive’, but as this report shows it is supporting new fossil fuel projects at home and abroad, which are completely incompatible with that target.

“If it wants to be taken seriously as a climate leader, and meet its own climate targets, it must immediately end support for fossil fuels, help poorer countries do the same, and ensure a just transition for workers by creating good, green jobs.”

* Read Tip of the Iceberg: The future of fossil fuel extraction here.

* Source: Friends of the Earth