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A new study found that the world has enough fossil fuel projects planned to meet global energy demand forecasts until 2050, urging governments to halt new oil, gas, and coal licenses.

Researchers from University College London and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) stated that no new fossil fuel projects are necessary if governments implement promised changes to meet climate targets.

The study provides a “rigorous scientific basis” for global governments to ban new fossil fuel projects and initiate a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry while promoting investment in clean energy alternatives.

Published in the journal Science, the paper analysed global energy demand forecasts for oil, gas, coal, and gas-fired electricity using various scenarios from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change aimed at limiting global warming to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The findings indicate that, in a net-zero future, no new fossil fuel extraction or coal- and gas-fired power generation projects are needed. This paper is expected to spark renewed criticism of the UK’s Conservative government, which plans to offer hundreds of oil and gas exploration licenses to boost the North Sea industry. This policy is a key dividing line with the opposition Labour party ahead of the 4 July general election.

Labour has pledged to end new North Sea licenses if elected and plans to increase taxes on profits from existing oil and gas fields to fund green energy investments through a new government-owned company, Great British Energy.

Dr Steve Pye, a co-author of the report from the UCL Energy Institute, said: “Importantly, our research establishes that there is a rigorous scientific basis for the proposed norm by showing that there is no need for new fossil fuel projects.”

“The clarity that this norm brings should help focus policy on targeting the required ambitious scaling of renewable and clean energy investment, whilst managing the decline of fossil fuel infrastructure in an equitable and just way,” Pye said.

The report builds on previous work by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has warned that new fossil fuel projects are incompatible with the global goal of achieving a net-zero energy system.

The IEA advised against new investments in long-term fossil fuel projects but acknowledged the need for continued investment in existing oil and gas assets and already approved projects.

Dr Fergus Green, from the department of political science at UCL, said: “Our research draws lessons from past shifts in global ethical norms, such as slavery and the testing of nuclear weapons. These cases show that norms resonate when they carry simple demands to which powerful actors can be held immediately accountable.

“Complex, long-term goals like ‘net zero emissions by 2050’ lack these features, but ‘no new fossil fuel projects’ is a clear and immediate demand, against which all current governments, and the fossil fuel industry, can rightly be judged.”

Chris Stark, the outgoing head of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, recently remarked that the term “net zero” had become a politicised slogan, contributing to a “dangerous” culture war over climate issues, suggesting it might be better abandoned.

“If it is only a slogan, if it is seen as a sort of holding pen for a whole host of cultural issues, then I’m intensely relaxed about dropping it,” Stark said. “We keep it as a scientific target, but we don’t need to use it as a badge that we keep on every programme.”

Green said a political stance on supporting new fossil fuel projects should “serve as a litmus test” on whether a government was serious about tackling the climate crisis. “If they’re allowing new fossil fuel projects, then they’re not serious,” he added.



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