Last month the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change announced that the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved, and the treaty takes effect today.
You might say hooray but there is always a wrinkle. This time, the wrinkle is natural gas. Gas has long been touted as a bridge fuel into a bright, clean, post-fossil fuel future. Now, though, climate science is clear: there’s simply no room for gas. It is too damaging for this place we call home.
Burning natural gas accounts for a huge amount of CO2 emissions. In the most recent look at the climate budget numbers, Oil Change International found that existing, developed, fossil fuel reserves put us past the 1.5 C target stated in Paris.
There’s simply no room for more drilling and fracking. And that’s before a full accounting of the gas that leaks directly into the atmosphere, at every part of the natural gas system. Natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas that, according to the IPCC, is 87-times more efficient at trapping heat than CO2, pound for pound, over a 20 year timescale, and that is 36-times more potent over the 100 years after it’s emitted.
In spite of climate science, the industry, and the tangle of financial interests behind it, won’t stop advertising for “get together” events of “gas and renewables moving hand in hand“ to sell “gas as the perfect partner and back up for unreliable renewables.“
The bottom line of this “be-my-buddy“ request is the threat of sinking many more billions of Euros into infrastructure to support gas, locking in decades more dependence on the fossil fuel. We simply cannot afford that, if we are going to keep our climate system stable. The stability of our social and political systems is also at stake.
Unfortunately, the latest vote of the EU Parliament proves how successful the gas lobby is.
On October 25, by a vote of 415 to 223, Parliament approved a report establishing the EU’s strategic policy on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas storage.
Curiously, 55 MEPs abstained from the vote on the report, which was drafted by EPP MEP András Gyürk, who believes that for Europe, liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments can become just as important source as the Russian and Norwegian pipeline gas stands now. He also doesn’t consider decarbonisation and energy efficiency as the most important goals on which the European Energy Union should focus. It is therefore not very surprising that his report welcomes the import of fracked gas from the United States and encourages sinking European tax money on new gas infrastructure.
But building out more infrastructure will result in more European LNG overcapacities. Hopefully, given the urgency of climate science, it will also lead to numerous stranded assets — but that’s no way to spend taxpayer funds.
LNG, with its significant greenhouse gas footprint, is not a climate- or environmentally-friendly solution. Our planet reacts much more quickly to reductions of methane emissions, which will be crucial in order to keep global warming under control.
The EU will not be able to fulfill its obligations under the Paris Agreement by calling for the extraction of more fossil fuels and the expansion of gas infrastructure..
Sadly enough, the Parliament-approved report puts a particular focus on the import of LNG from the United States. Two thirds of US Gas is obtained through fracking. And almost all of the imported gas would be – most probably – obtained through fracking. Given that several EU Member States have declared moratoria or bans on fracking, it is quite cynical to push for the import of fracked gas from abroad at the same time.
We need to expand our global network and work together to keep fossil fuels in the ground and safeguard our climate.
People around the world have already started realizing that we need to act quickly. and we need to act as an unity, expanded over sea and land borders. And united we will have the power to make the necessary difference. The time is right and the time is now!