Analysis: Norway, the UK and Canada are not climate champions. They are climate hypocrites
Many countries produce fossil fuels despite being committed to combat climate change. But Canada, Norway and the UK stand out because they are doing so while positioning themselves as climate champions.
The UK government can make these claims, because under international agreements, each country is responsible only for the greenhouse gas emissions produced in its territory. This means that the UK, Canada, Norway and others do not have to worry about emissions from burning their oil, gas and coal in other places around the world.
Burning fossil fuels emit CO2, which traps solar radiation in the atmosphere, just as a glass trap is heated in a greenhouse. This increases the temperature, which in turn leads to more extreme weather, ice melt and sea level rise.
This is a simple equation: The more fossil fuels we burn, the more CO2 is released into the atmosphere and the larger the greenhouse effect.
“We cannot burn much of the existing fossil fuel reserves to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Poyle Achakulvisut, scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Climate scientists have estimated that the amount of greenhouse gases we can still add to the atmosphere without a critical limit of 1.5 degrees. In early 2018, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated this so-called carbon budget to limit warming to 1.5 degrees out of two-three of approximately 420 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide. For three occasions.
A more recent estimate published earlier this year in the journal Nature puts the figure in the range of 230 gigatons to 230 gigatons for two-three chances of meeting a six-gigaton goal of missing two-three.
The world produced about 34 gigatons of CO2 last year, which means that the remaining carbon budget can last only six years, until emissions begin to fall sharply.
Canada, the UK and Norway have all set ambitious targets. The UK and Canada promised to reduce their regional emissions to zero by 2050. Norway wants to be carbon neutral by 2030. “Pure” zero means that if they cannot completely eliminate all emissions, they can shift for difference. For example, removing carbon from the atmosphere by planting more trees.
Nicholas Hohne, founder at the Nucleite Institute, a climate think tank, told CNN that the decision to focus on regional emissions goes back to the early days of climate negotiations. “There was a long discussion about doing it this way and that agreement was reached and it is not covering the issue of exports, or consumption issues of goods that arise elsewhere … and I agree “It’s not 100% understandable,” he said.
It makes a huge difference. Norway’s annual domestic emissions reached about 53 million tonnes in 2017, according to its statistical office. According to the United Nations Emission Gap Report, in 2017, oil and gas emissions sold overseas reached nearly 470 million tonnes.
Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Svinung Rotevatn, said in a statement to CNN that the country’s commitment is based on regional climate goals. “Emissions related to consumption of export oil and gas products in other countries are covered by importers’ emissions accounts and targets,” he said. Asked about the country’s oil and gas export plans, he said “Norway strongly supports the renewal of fossils and a transition from energy use and production.”
Andrew Grant, head of climate, energy and industry research at the think tank Carbon Tracker, points out that many producers are economically dependent on revenue from fossil fuels. He is aware that the world will soon need to distance him from himself, but no one wants to be the first to get out.
Fossil fuel production can be costly and many governments argue that stopping now will often be a waste of money spent on public and existing projects.
Hohen said the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany is a good example of this. “It’s been 95%. And people now argue whether we should do it or not and there’s pressure to operate it because people put a lot of money into it. So now it’s almost there, shouldn’t we build it . ” Then use it? “He said.” I say no. It is not Paris-compatible, we need less fossil fuel infrastructure and not more. It’s not necessary and it’s really the opposite. ”
Canada, Norway and the UK all plan to produce fossil fuels, invest in new projects and investments.
According to the Norwegian Climate Research Institute CICERO, if Norway continues to drill as its planned oil, the total emissions from its known oil and gas reserves will be around 15 gigatons of CO2. This would eat 6.5% of the remaining carbon budget for the entire world.
The numbers are estimated, but they present a major problem: the national plan to cut emissions does not add to the global total need.
Höhne said that climate plans cannot stop at the emission-cutting target and set deadlines for phasing out internal combustion engines, reaching 100% renewables and fossil fuel exhaust dates. “So far, only a few small producers have stopped allowing new fossil fuel sites, Denmark was one in the last few months, and such a decision needs to take place in Norway and Canada and also in the US and UK.”
Although existing international agreements do not prevent countries from consuming fossil fuel emissions elsewhere, there is a new, powerful force that governments need to think about: voters.
Public opinion has shifted in recent years, with climate protesters flooding the streets. When the UK government planned to build its first deep coal mine in 30 years, in Cumbria, northwest England, earlier this year, the verdict sparked a wave of protests, including a 10-day hunger strike by two teen activists Was also involved.
The mine was approved despite the UK’s commitment to stop burning coal by 2025, as it would produce high quality metallurgical coal used to make steel. This is a similar argument made by Australia and other coal producers: coal is bad, but our coal is better.
“It’s a trend that you see in sectors affected by climate regulation,” said Edward Collins, director of lobbying at InfluencePorp, a think tank that studies climate change. “This’ we are special and although we support your climate ambition, this project, you know, we need it for whatever reason, such as jobs or the economy,” and every single region makes these claims, “he said.
The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent government advisory body, estimated that Cumbria mine operations and coal production would emit around 9 million tonnes of CO2 every year, and noted that metallurgical coal would also be phased out in the UK is. By 2035.
James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, has written a private letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider the plan and tell him that he will be “humiliated” by young people if he goes ahead and There will be a risk of being “humiliated”.
The action forced Cumbria County Council, the local authority – which has previously approved the new mine three times – to make a U-turn earlier this month. It said it would now trust the scheme.