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Rich countries must end oil and gas production by 2034, report says

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Rich countries must end oil and gas production by 2034, report says

Rich nations must end oil and gas production within 12 years to give the world a shot at meeting the goal of the Paris agreement — and to give poor countries a “fair chance” to replace their lost income from fossil fuels, according to a report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester released late Monday.

The report looked at the global carbon budget — the amount of carbon that the world can afford to emit without blowing past 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of global temperature rise, the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris accord.

It found that to have a 50 percent chance of meeting this target, developed countries must phase out oil and gas production by 2034. Developing countries would have until 2050 to end their production.

“This is what the science is clearly telling us. It's a bit of basic arithmetic. That's all it is,” Kevin Anderson, a co-author of the report and a professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, told The Climate 202.

Anderson co-authored the report with Daniel Calverley, an independent climate researcher. Their work was commissioned by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a think tank focused on sustainability.

The researchers classified each country by its capacity to maintain a vibrant economy without revenue from oil and gas. Their main findings were:

  • “Highest capacity” countries with average non-oil gross domestic product per person of $50,000 must end production by 2034, with a 74 percent cut by 2030. They include the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
  • “High capacity” countries with average non-oil GDP of nearly $28,000 must end production by 2039, with a 43 percent cut by 2030. They include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Kazakhstan.
  • “Medium capacity” countries with average non-oil GDP of $17,000 must end production by 2043, with a 28 percent cut by 2030. They include China, Brazil and Mexico. 
  • “Low capacity” countries with average non-oil GDP of $10,000 must end production by 2045, with an 18 percent cut by 2030. They include Indonesia, Iran and Egypt.
  • “Lowest capacity” countries with average non-oil GDP of $3,600 must end production by 2050, with a 14 percent cut by 2030. They include Iraq, Libya and South Sudan.

“This new study is a timely reminder that all countries must phase out oil and gas production rapidly with wealthy countries going fastest, while also ensuring a just transition for workers and communities that rely on it,” Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement.

“Additionally, wealthy countries can and must provide the support and resources less wealthy countries need to make the same transition,” she added.

The politics

Scientifically speaking, the report is clear about the dangers of burning more fossil fuels. But politically speaking, the report's recommendations could be a tough sell for world leaders, as demonstrated by the U.N. climate summit in Scotland last year.

At the high-profile summit, Denmark and Costa Rica led the formation of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, a first-of-its-kind initiative that seeks to set an end date for new oil and gas production.

  • The “core members” of the initiative are Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales.
  • However, the four biggest oil-producing countries — the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Canada — have still not joined the alliance.

In the United States, the American Petroleum Institute, the nation's largest oil and gas lobbying group, has urged the Biden administration to unleash fossil fuel production on federal lands and waters after Russia's invasion of Ukraine roiled global energy markets.

Asked for comment on the report, a spokeswoman for the trade group said in an email: “The current crisis in Europe is a clear reminder that ensuring continued access to affordable, reliable energy while tackling the climate change cannot be an either/or proposition. We can and must do both, and as populations grow and economies expand, our industry will play a critical role for decades to come in meeting rising demand for affordable, reliable and cleaner energy around the world.”

Anderson, the co-author of the study, ultimately lamented the lack of political willpower to tackle climate change at the speed and scale that the science demands.

“Physics doesn't care about ephemeral politics,” he said. “It just cares about [carbon dioxide] molecules.” 

Agency alert

The SEC proposed a landmark climate disclosure rule. Here’s what to know.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday approved a landmark proposal to require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the risks they face from climate change in a standardized way, Maxine and Douglas MacMillan report for The Washington Post. 

At an open meeting, the SEC’s three Democratic commissioners voted to approve the proposal, while the sole Republican commissioner voted against it. SEC Chair Gary Gensler, who was nominated by President Biden, said the rule would provide “consistent, comparable information” to investors. 

The rule reflects the Biden administration’s broader push to tackle the risks that climate change poses to the financial system and economic stability. The public will have 60 days to submit comments after the proposed rule is published. Then the commissioners will take the comments into consideration and vote on a final rule — a process that could take several months.

While climate advocates praised the rule as significant, some expressed disappointment in its treatment of Scope 3 emissions, which include the emissions generated by suppliers and customers.

“This is really important, and I’m happy that the SEC is moving forward with it,” said Alex Martin, a senior policy analyst for climate finance at Americans for Financial Reform. “But from our perspective, the Scope 3 [mandate] needs to be strengthened, and we will be making the case for that in the public comment period.”

Pressure points

Law students protest major law firm for representing Big Oil

Climate-conscious law students protested outside the offices of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on Monday in Washington, New York City and San Francisco over the firm’s work with the oil and gas industry, escalating a year-long fight to hold the firm accountable for its representation of corporate polluters.

“This protest represents a renewed call for Gibson Dunn and its ilk to articulate and adopt an ethical standard for their fossil fuel and environmental justice work, which has so far been met with silence,” Grecia Nuñez, a second-year law student at American University Washington College of Law and member of the group Law Students for Climate Accountability, said in an statement. 

Gibson Dunn, a major law firm with a 132-year legacy and offices on five continents, has faced scrutiny for years over its work with the fossil fuel industry. The firm represented Chevron in a costly fight over oil waste left behind in Ecuador and over the Dakota Access pipeline in Montana. 

Law Students for Climate Accountability first called on Gibson Dunn to cut ties with fossil fuel firms last April. Big law firms typically operate based on profit and are not legally required to follow climate risk regulations, but in its 2021 Law Firm Climate Change Scorecard, Law Students for Climate Accountability gave Gibson Dunn an F and found it had conducted the second-most litigation exacerbating climate change of any law firm. 

Asked for comment, Gibson Dunn spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said in an email to The Climate 202: “We respect everyone’s right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but we also stand with our client, Chevron, which supports the Paris Agreement and is focused on advancing a lower carbon future."

Biden urges business executives to invest in climate action

Speaking to a group of U.S. business executives on Monday evening, President Biden highlighted companies' dedication to tackling climate change and lowering costs for American families. 

Several top oil and energy executives were in attendance, including Marathon Petroleum's Michael Hennigan, ConocoPhillips' Ryan Lance, ExxonMobil's Darren Woods, Pattern Energy's Michael Garland and Invenergy's Michael Polsky.

While most of Biden's remarks to the Business Roundtable's CEO quarterly meeting focused on the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the president also called on executives to invest in clean energy technologies.

“Invest in America itself,” Biden said. “Manufacturing. Climate resilience, clean energy. So America can win the competition in the 21st century." 

Extreme events

As it enters a third year, California’s drought is strangling the farming industry

California was once a haven for agriculture, but with a worsening drought that has lasted three years and a dwindling water supply, the state’s farms are vanishing, The Post’s Scott Wilson reports. 

California endured its driest start to a year in at least a century because of climate change, causing not a single major reservoir to be filled to its average for this time of year. As a result, the federal Central Valley Project — a system of pumps, aqueducts and reservoirs that provides the region’s surface water — declared a second straight year of no water deliveries. The announcement means farmers across the valley must rely on depleted groundwater supplies and what little they have been able to store.

According to a study conducted for the state by the University of California at Merced, California farmers already left nearly 400,000 acres of land unplanted last year because of scarce water. The result, the study found, was a direct cost to farmers of $1.1 billion and the loss of nearly 9,000 jobs.

Viral

Maxine finally realized her lifelong dream of being retweeted by Room Rater yesterday. And for the record, we are also pro-door hook.

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