Pacific Rim Can Diffuse Carbon Bomb
In a troubling report this week commissioned by Greenpeace, Ecofys has identified 14 fossil fuel projects that could add 20% to the world’s carbon emissions by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, emissions from Chinese projects provide the greatest amount of explosives within the bomb, with 1.4bn tonnes of CO2 in 2020.
Australia comes next as its extraordinary coal export industry threatens to make the world’s biggest island into the world’s biggest mine. Coal, shale gas, and potential gulf of Mexico oil exploration means the US government holds the detonator to the next largest portion of the bomb.
When you add Indonesian mining and Canada’s tar sands the analysis highlights how the decisions that will decide the earth’s fate in terms of climate change will be taken primarily:
a) by individual national governments located in the Pacific rim, and not around the UNFCCC negotiating table; and
b) before the deadline for a new global deal set by the UNFCCC in 2015.
European and world leaders should use all leverage possible to ensure that these projects are stopped, or at least their effects mitigated.
Since the power base for the projects is around the pacific, Obama’s strategic shift in that direction could easily flow through to a new US climate policy. In terms of direct decision making and influence, this analysis supports the proposition that the US must take the lead on global climate action.
The uncomfortable truth presented by this report is that decarbonisation in other parts of the world will be little more than hand-wringing as the bomb explodes in our faces. That does not mean we should not proceed with decarbonisation, it just means we should be realistic about the impact of our mitigation efforts if the carbon bomb is allowed to go off.
The projects making up the carbon bomb are:
1. Australia: by 2025, coal exports would increase to 408 million tonnes a year above 2011 levels, pushing associated CO2 emissions up by 1,200 million tonnes a year once the coal is burned.
2. China: China’s five northwestern provinces plan to increase coal production by 620 million tonnes by 2015, generating an additional 1,400 million tonnes of CO2
3. US: plans to export an additional 190 million tonnes of coal a year, mainly through the Pacific Northwest. This would add 420 million tonnes of CO2 a year to global emissions before 2020;
4. Indonesia: plans a massive expansion in coal exports from the island of Kalimantan which would add 460 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020.
5. Canada: production of oil from the tar sands in Alberta will triple from 1.5 to 4.5 million barrels a day by 2035, adding 706 million tonnes of CO2 to global emissions a year.
6. The Arctic: Oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice in the environmentally sensitive Arctic region, the drilling would add 520 million tonnes of CO2 a year to global emissions by 2020, as much as the entire national emissions of Canada, and 1,200 million tonnes by 2030.
7. Brazil: companies intend to extract up to 4 million barrels of oil a day from underneath the Brazilian ocean, adding 660 million tonnes of CO2 to annual global emissions by 2035.
8. Gulf of Mexico: plans for new deepwater oil drilling would produce 2.1 million barrels of oil a day in 2016, adding 350 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
9. Venezuela: the Orinoco tar sands will produce 2.3 million barrels of new oil a day by 2035, adding 190 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020.
10. The US: new production will deliver 310 billion cubic metres a year of shale gas in 2035, adding 280 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020.
11. Kazakhstan: new production in the Caspian Sea will deliver 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2025, adding 290 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020.
12. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan: new production in the Caspian Sea will deliver 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2020, adding 240 million
tonnes of CO2 emissions
13. Africa: new production will provide 64 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2015 and 250 billion cubic metres to 2035, adding 260 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020
14. Iraq: new production will deliver 1.9 million barrels of oil a day by 2016 and 4.9 million barrels a day by 2035, adding 420 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020