40 new UK fossil-fuel projects emitting triple the UK’s annual emissions could be approved by 2025

With the UN climate summit on our doorstep, why is the government still supporting new climate-wrecking fossil-fuel projects?

The final days until world leaders meet at the UN climate summit in Glasgow are ticking away. Despite the UK hosting this major event, our new NEF analysis with Friends of the Earth has found that there are at least 40 potential fossil-fuel projects in the UK pipeline. From new oil fields to coal mines to gas deposits, if these projects all go ahead, they could emit a combined 1.3bn tonnes of greenhouse gas, almost three times the annual emissions of the entire UK. As host of next week’s summit, Cop26, the UK government says it wants to keep 1.5C alive”, referring to the ambition of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But as the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a landmark report earlier this year, sticking to the 1.5C limit means we cannot open any new coal mines, oil or gas fields. The UK government wants Cop26 to be a success, and is busy talking up its own climate credentials while asking other countries to improve theirs. But actions at home could undermine the UK’s climate objectives and its claims to climate leadership.

Burning fossil fuels is the key contributor to climate breakdown and phasing them out is an internationally agreed goal, but the UK and other countries continue to extract and exploit these resources. Our new report looks at some of the most controversial planned projects: the Cambo oil field in the North Sea, the West Cumbria coal mine, and the Horse Hill oil field in Surrey. The combined emissions of these three projects could amount to 296m tonnes of greenhouse gases over their lifetimes, equivalent to the annual emissions of Spain.

But while these projects are the highest profile, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath them, lie a whole pipeline of prospective coal, oil and gas developments that will sink the UK’s climate efforts unless the government urgently changes direction.

Beyond these UK projects, the government is still supporting fossil fuel projects abroad. This includes $1.15bn it recently pledged to finance a massive gas project in Mozambique, one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis . We estimate that this could emit a staggering 4.5bn tonnes of CO2-equivalent over the project’s lifecycle, which is as much as the annual emissions of the entire African continent. Friends of the Earth is legally challenging the UK government’s decision to back the Mozambique project in a case that goes to court on 7 December.

In their applications, none of these projects take into account the emissions from the end-use of the coal, oil or gas they plan to produce, whether it’s burned in steel plants, home boilers, vehicles or turned into other products like plastic. Fossil fuel companies argue that these emissions are out of their control and so only look at their own upstream” or production emissions when assessing their impact. But as our analysis shows, the vast majority of emissions occur not when fossil fuels are extracted from the ground, but where they are actually used. When this is taken into account, it’s clear that no new fossil-fuel projects are compatible with our climate objectives. That’s why the government must end its support for fossil fuels at home and abroad once and for all, and support poorer countries to do the same, ensuring a just transition for workers and communities in the process.

Image: Pexels

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