Dash for gas following Russia's invasion of Ukraine jeopardises climate goals, report says

A sticker reads "natural gas" on a pipe at the French company R-CUA plant, in Strasbourg.
A sticker reads "natural gas" on a pipe at the French company R-CUA plant, in Strasbourg.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, file
By Euronews  with Reuters

Countries scrambling to source more natural gas to replace supplies from Russia are risking years of emissions that could thwart climate goals, the research collaboration Climate Action Tracker said on Thursday.

Efforts to stave off disastrous climate change collided this year with a global energy crisis of scarce gas and soaring fuel prices, as Russia sharply cut gas deliveries to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. 

"We're witnessing a major push for expanded fossil gas LNG production and import capacity across the world – in Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and Australia – which could cause global emissions to breach dangerous levels," said Bill Hare, CEO of research institute Climate Analytics, which together with NewClimate Institute forms Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

The planned projects could emit 10 per cent of the world's remaining carbon budget - the cumulative amount that can be emitted if warming beyond 1.5C is to be avoided, CAT said. 

Among the projects are new gas drilling in Canada and liquefied natural gas (LNG) import capacity in Germany and Vietnam.

Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
The war-inspired natural gas boom is undermining already insufficient efforts to limit future warming.Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

No new oil and gas fields to keep global warming below 1.5C

Countries agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change to attempt to stop greenhouse gases from heating the planet to more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists have said going past 1.5C of warming would unleash far more severe climate impacts than the deadly wildfires, floods and rising seas already unfolding today. Currently, the world is 1.2C hotter than pre-industrial levels.

By October, Russian gas had plummetted to 7.5 per cent of Europe's gas imports, down from 40 per cent in recent years.

The dash to replace those supplies has bolstered plans to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, even as the European Union has proposed higher renewable energy targets to attempt to mostly replace Russian fuel with clean energy.

The International Energy Agency has said no new oil and gas fields should be opened if the world is hit the 1.5C goal.

CAT also calculated that countries' targets to cut emissions this decade would put the world on course for 2.4C of warming. 

This is versus 1.8C in a best-case scenario where countries achieved all of their announced pledges including 2050 goals - which would require tougher climate policies and far larger investments to shift to green energy.